Early Monday morning, police officers in Jupiter Florida found a vehicle occupied by golf legend Tiger Woods parked on the side of the road with the engine running, the brake lights on, and a right turn signal blinking. The officers observed that two tires were flat and they saw fresh damage to the driver’s side of the vehicle.
After Tiger failed field sobriety testing, he was arrested on suspicion of DWI. A breath test later registered a blood alcohol level of 0.00%. Tiger has since released a statement that his condition was caused by prescription medications.
If Tiger’s statement is to be believed, can Tiger be prosecuted for taking the prescription according to doctor’s orders? The answer in Florida appears to be yes. Section 316.193 of the Florida Statutes makes it a crime to drive a vehicle while under the influence of any controlled substance if that substance affects a person’s normal faculties.
Had Tiger’s arrest taken place in Minnesota, the answer to the same question could be the opposite. Generally, there are two ways that DWIs involving controlled substances are “charged” in Minnesota. A person can be prosecuted for having any amount of certain drugs in their system, whether they impair the driver or not. Many of these drugs are widely prescribed across the state. When a person is charged under the “any amount” statute, a prescription drug defense is available. The defense is only available if the substance was used according to the terms of a prescription. Minn. Stat. § 169A.46. In addition, the Minnesota Legislature just this year changed the DWI laws to allow for the prescription medication defense for license revocation challenges under the statute.
The second way that the state could prosecute a driver like Tiger Woods for DWI in Minnesota is by alleging that he was impaired by a controlled substance. Much like Florida law, the prosecution could seek a conviction under this statute even if the driver was properly following the terms of a doctor’s prescription. But remember, the state would have to prove that Tiger Woods was actually impaired by the prescription drug beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ultimately, the justice system will sort out the legality of Tiger’s arrest, but if you or a loved one have a question regarding a DWI/DUI arrest, we are always just a phone call away.