Thursday, July 16, 2009

Basketball Players Get Off Easy On DUI Charges

Two weeks ago, Diana Taurasi, a star player for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, was cited on three (count 'em, THREE) charges related to drunk-driving. Of those charges, one is a charge of "extreme DUI," which I assumed meant drunk-driving a Formula 1 race car or something along those lines, but I digress.

Well, today the Mercury suspended her for two games without pay. Two games? More on that in a minute, but first, the details of Arizona DUI charges:

"If convicted of a first offense DUI, there is a minimum mandatory jail requirement of one to ten days with a maximum jail term of six months. You can also be fined from $250.00 to $2,500.00 plus surcharges and placed on probation for up to five years.

In addition to the jail term, your driver's license or driving privileges may be suspended or restricted. If your driver's license is suspended as the result of a breath test that is over the legal limit, the suspension is ninety days. During the ninety days, you cannot drive at all during the first thirty days and you may be eligible for a restricted license for the next sixty days if you did not cause injury with your DUI and you have no prior DUI-related license suspensions within the last five years. Our DUI lawyers often are successful in having the breath test thrown out of court, which can help save your license.

If you refused to take the breath test, you will have a one-year driver's license suspension instead of the ninety days. A conviction on a §28-1381(A)(3) (involving an illegal drug as opposed to alcohol) is the same as A1 and A2 except your driver's license will be revoked for one year. A conviction on §28-1381(A)(4) (involving a commercial driver’s license) is the same as A1 and A2 except it you may lose your commercial driver's license.

Now let's consider similar situations that other athletes have recently been through, as well as the suspensions levied on them.

- Back in December, Charles Barkley was cited for a DUI and subsequently suspended indefinitely by TNT, and by "indefinitely," I mean for about two and a half months until after the All-Star break.

- NFL receiver Donte Stallworth recently was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for is DUI charge, though he was also convicted of manslaughter and served 24 days in prison (another joke sentencing).

- Hell, even Michael Phelps was suspended from swimming for three months after a photo surfaced of him smoking from a bong. And he wasn't even charged with any crimes!

But the same standard for suspensions doesn't apply to NBA and WNBA players:

- In April, Zach Randolph of the LA Clippers was suspended two games as well after being charged with a DUI. The charges were subsequently dropped.

-Last April, Carmelo Anthony was charged with a DUI and suspended for the first two games of this past season.

The point I'm trying to get to here is that these standard two-game suspensions for basketball players after a serious charge such as this is absurd. Especially when a charge is "extreme" and the player is cited for going 20 miles over the speed limit and was seen swerving in and out of the lane. For once, I'd like to see someone take a page out of the discipline master himself, Roger Goodell's book, and levy heavier punishments for charges like this that not only put the players, and other drivers on the road in danger, but also damage a player's (and the league's) image.

Bottom line: a two-game suspension for a DUI charge is wrong, particularly when other athletes (and Charles Barkley) are getting hit much harder for similar (and sometimes no) charges.

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