Tiger Woods and Florida Reckless Driving

In 2017, Tiger Woods was charged with DUI. Under the right circumstances, a DUI charge can be reduced to a charge of reckless driving, resulting in a reduced punishment.

The Tiger Woods DUI Case

Around 4:00 a.m. on May 29, 2019, an officer from the Jupiter, Florida Police Department found pro golfer Tiger Woods asleep in his car.

According to police, Tiger’s Mercedes was parked partially in the street, and partially in a bike lane.  The car was running with its break lights on and its right blinker flashing.  The tires on the driver’s side of Tiger’s vehicle were flat and the rims were scratched, indicating that the vehicle had been in a recent accident.  Police also saw damage to the vehicle’s bumpers.

The police officer noted that Tiger’s speech was slurred, his reactions were slow, and that he did not know where he was.  Tiger performed field sobriety exercises, including the walk and turn, one leg stand, and finger to nose. According to the police officer, Tiger appeared to be impaired.  Police arrested Tiger and charged him with DUI.

Tiger provided a breath sample, and the results showed that he had no alcohol in his system. However, a toxicology report from a DUI urine test indicated that Tiger had pain medications, Ambien, Xanax, and cannabis in his system.  Tiger made a statement on Twitter that his impairment that night was due to an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.

The Advantages Of Getting A Tampa DUI Case Reduced To Reckless Driving

The best possible outcome in a Tampa DUI case is for the case to be dismissed or for the person to be found not guilty at trial.  However, in between a dismissal of a DUI case and a conviction for DUI, there is another possible result – a reduction to reckless driving.

There are several advantages for a Tampa DUI defendant when the prosecutor reduces a DUI to reckless driving.

First, when a person pleads guilty to a Tampa DUI, Florida law requires the judge to suspend the person’s driver’s license.  The length of the suspension varies from 6 months to a lifetime suspension, depending on how many prior DUI convictions the person has. However, if a person pleads guilty to reckless driving, the law does not require the judge to suspend the person’s driver’s license.

Second, when a person pleads guilty to a Tampa DUI, Florida law requires the judge to impound the person’s motor vehicle.  The length of impound varies from 10 days to 90 days. However, if a person pleads guilty to reckless driving, the law does not require the judge to impound the person’s vehicle.

Third, the State of Florida requires that a before a person convicted of a Tampa DUI can get their driver’s license back, they must file a form with the Florida DHSMV called the FR-44.  The FR-44 certifies to the State of Florida that a person convicted of DUI has auto insurance in the amounts of at least $100,000 in bodily injury insurance per person, $300,000 in bodily injury insurance per accident, and $50,000 in property damage.  In most cases the FR44 is required for three years from the time of conviction.  To get an FR-44 form, a person convicted of DUI must request one from their insurance company.  This puts the insurance company on notice that the person had a DUI, which can cause their insurance premiums to rise. However, the FR44 requirement does not apply to a person whose case has been reduced to reckless driving.

Fourth, when a when a person pleads guilty to a Tampa DUI, Florida law requires the judge to adjudicate the person guilty of the offense, which means that the person is formally convicted of the DUI.  However, if a person pleads guilty to reckless driving, the judge is not required to adjudicate the person guilty.  Instead, the judge can withhold adjudication of guilt, which means that the person is not convicted of the offense.  If adjudication withheld, a defendant may be able to seal and eventually expunge the records associated with his or her arrest and prosecution.

When Will A Prosecutor Reduce A Tampa DUI to Reckless Driving?

There are several reasons why a prosecutor might reduce a Tampa DUI to reckless driving.

Just because you were arrested for DUI does not mean that you will be convicted of DUI.

First, sometimes there is a question as to whether or not a police officer’s stop of a vehicle was lawful.  If there was unconstitutional police conduct during a Tampa DUI investigation, a DUI attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence.  The filing of a motion to suppress can be enough to sway the prosecutor to reduce a DUI to reckless driving.  That’s because if a judge grants a motion to suppress, he or she may then end up dismissing the entire case.  Prosecutors want to avoid a dismissal, as they would prefer to get a reduced punishment for a DUI offender rather than none at all.

Second, there may simply not be enough evidence that a person is guilty of a Tampa DUI.  Sometimes whether or not a person was impaired while driving is a very close call, and Tampa DUI prosecutors may be unsure as to whether or not they can convince a jury of a defendant’s guilt. In cases like these, prosecutors are more likely to reduce a DUI to reckless driving.

Third, sometimes prosecutors want to give first time offenders a break.  Some Florida state attorney’s offices have DUI programs in place that allow first time offenders to plead guilty to the lesser charge of reckless driving if they agree to complete a specific a program aimed at reducing impaired driving. The State Attorney’s Office in Hillsborough County, Florida has such a program, which they call “RIDR” (Reducing Impaired Driver Recidivism).

So What Happened to Tiger’s DUI Case?

Tiger Woods was able to take advantage of a program offered by the State Attorney’s Office for first time DUI offenders.  According to court records, in October of 2017, the State Attorney’s Office reduced Tiger’s DUI case to reckless driving and he pleaded guilty to that charge.

Tiger was put on probation for one year.  The requirements of his probation included that he complete DUI school and substance abuse treatment, perform 50 hours of community service, and attend a DUI victim impact panel.   Because the DUI case was reduced to reckless driving, Tiger was able to avoid the suspension of his driver’s license and having to comply with Florida’s FR-44 requirement.  Also, the judge withheld adjudication of guilt, so it’s likely that Tiger will be eligible to have his arrest and court records sealed if he choses to do so.

Are you looking for the best DUI lawyer in Tampa Florida?  Contact Attorney David C. Hardy

Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former DUI prosecutor that now represents persons accused of DUI.  He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. As a prosecutor and defense attorney, he has extensive experience handling DUI cases.

Posted in Florida Criminal Defense, Florida DUI Defense