By: Mike Gonzalez
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What defense might Tiger Woods have to his prescription drug DUI?
On Memorial Day, golf legend Tiger Woods was found sleeping in his car near his Jupiter home. Unfortunately for him, the person who discovered him was a police officer.
Police dashcam video shows Woods’ car improperly parked, and field sobriety tests performed for the camera show the professional golfer confused and disoriented. He has been charged with DUI and improper parking.
Nevertheless, he passed two Breathalyzer tests with flying colors and apparently passed a urine test, as well. He was not drunk.
According to a statement by Woods, the events occurred due to “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications” he was taking during rehab after back surgery. He says he didn’t realize the medication would affect him so strongly and has taken full responsibility for his actions.
Are there defenses available in a situation like the Woods arrest?
Yes, there are. First, let’s understand why he was charged with DUI in the first place. Under Florida law, anyone found in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a harmful chemical, or a controlled substance — even a prescription drug — can be charged with DUI, or what is sometimes called DUID.
The “actual physical control” doctrine is widespread in the U.S. Basically, the idea is that if you’re intoxicated you should stay away from your vehicle altogether. It’s all too common for an intoxicated person to be sleepy — or wish to avoid a DUI charge — and pull over to take a nap. If that person is still impaired when they awaken, he or she may not realize it and start up the vehicle. In order to prevent that, police are authorized to arrest intoxicated people who are considered to be in control of any vehicle, even if the police don’t catch them driving.
A 1984 Florida District Court of Appeals case called Griffin v. State defines the phrase “actual physical control” in our state. Our courts consider the full situation and circumstances to determine whether someone is under actual physical control of a vehicle. If someone was asleep in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, they would likely be found to be in control. If they were in the back seat with the keys in the glove box, they might not be.
What might the dashcam have missed?
CNN’s report of the Woods arrest doesn’t specify whether where he was sleeping, and the dashcam video begins with Woods’ field sobriety tests. Was he in the driver’s seat or the back seat? This is at least one issue his defense attorney will need to investigate.