WEST PALM BEACH — Golfer Tiger Woods has an arraignment scheduled for Wednesday for his May DUI arrest. Just one problem: Per his attorney, Woods won’t be there.
Douglas Duncan, Woods’s lawyer, announced on Tuesday that Woods planned not to attend the hearing. Although there were no further details provided, much could be inferred from the announcement, primarily that Woods would be pleading “not guilty” to the charges against him.
Any plea entered other than “not guilty” would require the golf pro to be in attendance, so Woods’s absence means that he and Duncan intend to fight the DUI charge.
It’s an interesting choice, particularly given that Woods would qualify for the first-time DUI offender program offered by Palm Beach County, which would mean just a year of monitoring and 50 hours of community service instead of a jail sentence, with the DUI charge dropped at the end of the year.
“Looking at the facts of Tiger’s case, I don’t see any reason why he should not be offered entry into the program,” said Steven Bell, a partner at Meltzer & Bell who has worked on thousands of Palm Beach County DUI cases.
The Jupiter Island golfer’s rejection of this option suggests that he truly believes in his innocence.
Woods, who was discovered by officers near Jupiter on May 29th sleeping at the wheel of his Mercedes Benz with the engine, brake lights and flashers on, could be seen on video swaying, rolling his eyes and struggling to stay conscious as the cops ran him through field sobriety tests. Woods has steadfastly maintained the incident was brought about by a reaction to prescription drugs and not alcohol abuse. He blew .000 in the Breathalyzer test once taken to the police station, which may be fueling his confidence in taking his case to trial.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the message from Duncan. However, David S. Weinstein, a Miami defense attorney and former prosecutor, opined that prosecutors would likely keep open the offer to allow Woods to enter the first-time offender program for a time, though not indefinitely.
Woods, who has spent much of his storied golf career as the #1 ranked player in the sport, has been suffering well-publicized difficulties in his professional performance, and is currently sidelined with a back injury.
The golfer’s injuries have not impacted his leisure activities; this summer, Woods took his children to meet soccer pros Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on July 29th and also took them free diving for lobster on Friday at Albany, Bahamas.
Although Woods’s trial prospects are uncertain, he’s certainly beaten longer odds in the past. Time will tell if he can do it again.