I received a call the other day from a friend who told me that I should write a blog post about the recent Tiger Woods auto accident issue. I was trying to think of what to write and figured that the issue may be a little overexposed, when it came to me. Tiger’s recent “run in” with law gives me the perfect opportunity to point out the importance of the Fifth and even more important Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
The Fifth Amendment reads in part that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”. In layman’s terms means that you don’t have to talk to law enforcement if the answers to the questions could incriminate you. In Tiger’s case he didn’t make any statements and further he was a no-show at the FHP station (a few times) when he was asked to come in for a physical examination and questioning. Clearly, the Florida Highway Patrol didn’t have much in the way of incriminating evidence (other than for a traffic ticket); but were hoping that Tiger would come in and give them their case on a silver platter. Also, the police wanted to see his injuries and determine if they were “Serious Bodily Injuries” and would thus warrant greater punishment in the State of Florida.
While Tiger’s no-show at the FHP station might have been rude, it just might have saved him his driver’s license or better yet, his clean criminal record. In Florida if a driver is found to be at-fault for causing an auto accident and the injuries are determined to be “Serious”; he or she is at risk of losing their license for a period of 1 year.
While Mr. Woods might have known this information on his own, it is more likely that he consulted a Florida criminal defense attorney who helped guide him through this difficult and nerve-racking process. This brings me to the Sixth Amendment; that is the right to have the assistance of counsel. Unlike the Fifth Amendment which (after being invoked) allows law enforcement to keep questioning a suspect at a later time, the Sixth stays with a suspect for the entire length of any prosecution. In short, when an individual “pleads the Fifth”, law enforcement is allowed to come back and resume questioning but once a suspect says “I want a Lawyer” Law enforcement must cease any and all questioning until a lawyer is provided.
While you may never have the ability to control the golf course like Tiger you should now be able to take control of any law enforcement questioning and keep the prosecution from scoring a “hole in one”
Be like Tiger, Plead the Fifth and consult with a lawyer next time you find yourself in a jam.