Tiger Woods A Legal Analysis

By Randall MellNovember 30, 2009, 7:20 am

WINDERMERE, Fla. – Three times in the last three days Florida Highway Patrol officers knocked on Tiger Woods’ door seeking an explanation about what led to his traffic accident outside his Isleworth mansion in the early morning hours Friday.

Three times Woods declined to speak to them.

Based on statements by Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, it now appears Woods will not speak to investigators at all. Woods’ attorney, Mark NeJame, presented Woods’ driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance to officers on Sunday as his cooperation with the investigators assigned to the case.

What’s the deal? Legally, is Woods required to answer their questions? How might this affect the investigation and any potential charges? What legal risks are out there for Woods?

GolfChannel.com posed these and other questions to a pair of criminal defense attorneys from Orlando, Hal Uhrig of The Defense Group, and Adam Pollack:

Is Woods legally required to speak to FHP investigators?

Uhrig: There are only a few things that the statute really requires Tiger Woods to provide: his name, driver’s license information, proof of insurance and that sort of information. Beyond that, he may simply be disinclined to have any conversation with the FHP.

Does it matter that he is avoiding investigators?

Uhrig: It certainly matters to curious people who want to know. There may be something, more than just an accident, that he is not prepared to discuss. He doesn’t want to lie, but he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Pollack: I think the worst thing that can happen in this type of case is, unfortunately, that this is going to open all kinds of speculation. The Enquirer and magazines like that will have a field day speculating as to what happened. Mr. Woods and his wife have no way to combat that. People will wonder why he wouldn’t say anything. The natural reaction is: What do you have to hide? That is a public relations issue. But I suspect when he gets back to doing what he’s good at, this will blow over and just be a bad memory for him.

How might less than full cooperation affect the FHP’s findings?

Uhrig: They may make every negative imprint against him if he refuses to talk and assume he was driving carelessly or recklessly.

What’s the worst legal outcome you see Woods facing based on the known facts?

Uhrig: They could charge him with careless driving, because he lost control of the car. That’s a small fine. They would probably not charge him with reckless driving because he did not fly out of the driveway at 60 mph and drive in circles and sideways into (the fire hydrant and tree). If he just left his driveway and lost control, it may be careless driving, but there may be mechanical reasons, something on the car may have failed.

Pollack: At this point, it seems like careless driving would be the worst charge. The problem is that nobody can put him behind the wheel. I guess his wife could, but she didn’t actually see the accident. She came out after the fact. Without any witness, there is nobody to put him as the driver. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s what the law says. You have to be able to put him behind the wheel at the time of the accident. Mr. Woods doesn’t have to say anything in his defense.

What should we make of the fact that Woods has hired Mark NeJame, a criminal defense attorney, to handle this matter?

Uhrig: I doubt he’s using him for any criminal stuff. I think he’s looking at him as a spokesperson. Mr. NeJame is somebody who has been involved in high profile cases before. He may be the filter through which Mr. Woods provides whatever information he’s going to.

The initial police report stated that alcohol was not a factor. There appears to have been no testing for alcohol or drugs, no breathalyzer or blood draw. Also, Woods wasn’t informed that he was being arrested for suspicion of DUI, a requirement before he can be tested. Does that rule out DUI charges?

Uhrig: It would be all but impossible. If they don’t have a test of his breath, blood or urine shortly after the accident, their chance of a DUI are almost none.

Pollack: If alcohol or drugs was suspected to play a role, then the Florida Highway Patrol could have ordered a compulsory blood draw. There is a procedure they have to follow. The fact that (the report stated no alcohol was involved) leads me to believe they didn’t order a blood draw.

There was an unsubstantiated report that a domestic dispute might have precipitated the accident. Even if that were true, what are the chances the FHP investigation could lead the Orange County Sheriff’s department to pursue domestic charges of any sort?

Uhrig: I suppose if somebody in the household came forward and complained that somebody was beating somebody, or somebody was trying to escape, there could be an investigation. People are going to speculate one way or another, but I don’t think law enforcement is going anywhere with that. If they were to consider a criminal investigation, neither he nor his wife have any obligation to say anything to the police. They can say, `Leave us alone.’ If police want to try to develop evidence that somebody did something unlawful to the other and charge, they can do that, but they can’t compel Mr. or Mrs. Woods to provide them with any details they don’t want to give them. You would be kind of spinning your wheels.

Getty Images

McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Getty Images

Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.