Jeremy Clark is an attorney and a Steelers fan. He also runs the Lounge Legal Department which needs to be called on due to Hines Ward’s recent trouble in Georgia. Take it away, Jeremy…
As I’m sure most of you have heard by now Hines Ward was the winner of the first Steelers player to get arrested this summer contest. While I am usually not surprised when athletes get in trouble, this was a bit of a shock. I guess he just struck me as smarter than your average NFL player. Oh well.
I’m sure you’re not reading this for my player insights, that’s why we have Ryan, JJ, Adam, and Ted. So here is my initial analysis of the Georgia DUI laws.
First, like a typical lawyer, I need to lead off with a disclaimer: I am not licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia, nor do I typically practice criminal law in Pennsylvania. I have been trained to read laws and explain them to people (and have the student loans to prove it) so that’s all I am doing here.
Under the Georgia DUI statute (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391) it would appear that Hines is probably not in too much legal trouble. PR trouble is another matter. While all the media sources I have read state that this was a “drunken driving charge,” the Georgia law that seems to apply is concerned with “Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances….” So it is possible that Hines was doing more than throwing back some brews, but let’s just assume that he didn’t go Santonio on us and that he was in fact drunk.
In Georgia, a person is driving drunk when their blood alcohol level is over a 0.08%. First and second offenses are misdemeanors, the third is an aggravated misdemeanor, while the fourth and any more (really, are you that stupid?) are felonies. In determining the number of offenses, Georgia has a “look back period” of 10 years (the same as Pennsylvania). I don’t remember hearing about two other DUIs with Hines so I think we are safe to assume this will be a misdemeanor.
The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI are: (1) a fine between $300 and $1000; (2) 10 days to 12 months in prison; (3) 40 hours of community service; (4) attendance at a DUI avoidance program; (5) substance abuse evaluation and, if recommended by evaluators, treatment, and finally (6) probation for up to 12 months (total incarceration and probation time not to exceed 12 months).
As an added wrinkle the Judge may waive the jail time. If the person had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher he must serve a minimum of 24 hours in jail. Otherwise, the entire jail term may be waived by the Judge and is entirely at his or her discretion.
So, with that last caveat it would seem that Hines will likely spend a day in jail (maybe he could ask some Ravens or Bengals players for packing tips) pay some fines, pick up trash or do an infomercial for the state of Georgia then be on his way. The only real concern here is the probation requirement.
For those 12 months he had better be a total boyscout as a probation violation gets you in trouble very fast.
Let’s hope this is the last big Steelers news until we are addressing free agents once the lockout is over.