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Tiger Woods pleads guilty, enters first-time offender program

Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Golf

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Golfer Tiger Woods pleaded guilty Friday to a reckless driving charge, avoiding a possible DUI conviction by entering a first-time offender program.

Woods appeared at the county courthouse in Palm Beach Gardens to resolve his case with a second-degree misdemeanor.

Jupiter police said they found Woods asleep at the wheel of his idling Mercedes on May 29. After his arrest made international headlines, Woods, 41, said he had an "unexpected reaction" to medication to aid his recovery from back surgery the previous month.

In August, Woods announced he had completed an out-of-state "private intensive program" for dealing with pain medications, and would "continue to tackle this going forward."

That supports his entry into the county's DUI offender program, rather than an attempt to fight the DUI charge and risk serious consequences for a conviction.

Those penalties include the loss of a driver's license for a minimum of six months and possible jail time of six to nine months.

The State Attorney's Office said Woods was not treated differently than anyone else in similar circumstances would be treated.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg says the diversion program his office started in 2013 aims to prevent repeat DUI offenses with a series of rigorous requirements.

Typically, participants pay for alcohol monitoring devices for three to six months, serve probation for one year, pay fines of $250 to $500, perform 50 to 75 hours of community service, attend DUI school, and undergo random drug testing.

The Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization in Florida endorses the program, which has had 2,100 enrollees so far.

"The program is an important effort to make our community safer by ensuring that drivers prosecuted for first-time DUIs (for both alcohol and drug use) have their underlying substance abuse issues addressed," Aronberg wrote in a statement.

But violations can come at a high price, such as a mandatory 90-day jail sentence.

Woods was arrested after a police officer approached his idling car in the 2900 block of Military Trail at 2:03 a.m. He appeared to be asleep behind the wheel. Police did not see him driving. His black 2015 Mercedes had two flat tires, damage to the rims and bumpers, scrape marks on the driver's side and a taillight appeared to be out, according to police.

While Woods was slurring his speech and stumbling around, there were no signs he had been drinking. He passed a Breathalyzer test with perfect 0.00, but still failed field sobriety tests, police said.

A patrol car dash-cam video shows Woods unsteady on his feet. He was unable to turn and walk a straight line, maintain a standing position on one leg or understand instructions to recite the alphabet. On his arrest report, Woods was described as "cooperative, confused."

"Woods stated that he was coming from LA Calif from golfing," wrote the officer who woke the golfer. "Woods stated that he did not know where he was."

Woods later told officers the medications he had been taking included Vicodin, a pain medication, and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

The back surgery has been hailed as a success, with Woods declaring relief from pain and a likely comeback to competitive golf.

(c)2017 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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