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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tiger Woods Avoided Criminal Charges

Pro golfer, Tiger Woods, avoided criminal charges and instead received a traffic citation for his accident that occurred in the early hours after Thanksgiving. There was speculation that a domestic violence incident had occurred after Woods was left mildly injured following an accident where he drove his Escalade into a water hydrant and then ran it into a neighbor’s tree directly outside his home. Following an investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol, Woods will only be cited for careless driving, an infraction which carries a $164 fine and four points on one’s driving record. A police spokesperson stated, "There is insufficient evidence available to issue a subpoena for any additional medical information that might exist in this case... (and) there are no claims of domestic violence by any individual." Woods took full responsibility for the accident in a statement released on Sunday, November 29th and has since pulled out of his own golf tournament that was to take place in California.

The results of the official investigation has not deterred massive speculation regarding Woods' injuries and whether they were truly caused by the car crash or inflicted by his wife prior to the accident during a domestic dispute concerning his recent "transgressions." Many are commenting that Woods seemed to suffer injuries inconsistent with the accident, while Bill Sharpe-an attorney for the neighbors said Woods' injuries were "consistent with a car wreck and inconsistent with him being beat up." Sharpe stated, "The scratches on [Woods']face were consistent with someone who maybe was in a minor car accident and hit his head on the windshield. ... None of his injuries looked like he was beat up by his wife." Woods' wife, Elin, told police she used a golf club to smash the back windows only to help Woods out of the vehicle. Neighbors who called 911 said they saw no indication Woods was beaten or driving under the influence.

Had there been evidence of injuries consistent with a domestic violence Woods' wife could be charged with domestic violence. In California two penal code sections pertain to domestic violence incidents. The first is Penal Code Section 243(e) (1). This law states that when a person purposefully touches his/her partner in an offensive or angry way, he/she is guilty of domestic violence. "Offensive touching" includes smashing a car window when someone is still inside. And, if an injury results from the contact, then one can be charged with Corporal Injury on a Spouse under Penal Code Section 273.5(a). In addition to fines and jail time, a person must complete a one year batterer's treatment program if convicted on one of the above offenses. Had Woods' wife inflicted his injuries during the course of an argument or smashed the car window out of rage, she might be found guilty of domestic violence. Notably, the victim committing adultery is NOT a defense to domestic violence although presumably it could be considered a mitigating factor in a minor case. The only defense to domestic violence is self defense, where the Defendant asserts any injuries sustained by the victim were a result of him defending himself.

This story continues to develop. Here is a short video from the Associated Press showing the Florida Highway Patrol's photos of the vehicle. According to the AP: "A final report on Tiger Woods' car accident outside his Florida home shows he caused $3,200 in damage to property other than his SUV. The report was released by the Florida Highway Patrol. (Dec. 2)"

Criminal Law Updates by Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636

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