Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps Pleads Guilty to DUI
As the most decorated Olympian in history and USA Swimming’s 2014 Male Athlete of the Year, Michael Phelps is used to being in the public eye. In December 2014, however, he made the news for reasons less commendable than winning gold medals following a guilty plea to driving under the influence of alcohol earlier in the year.
Arrested near the Baltimore Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Maryland, Phelps registered .14 on a blood-alcohol test. The arresting officer initially stopped Phelps for crossing the double yellow lines while driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone.
Under Maryland’s DUI laws, Phelps faced a year in prison, a driver license suspension of at least 60 days and a $500 fine. Instead, District Judge Nathan Braverman sentenced Phelps to 18 months’ probation and 90-day suspension of his driving privileges, with a one-year suspended jail term. Phelps is prohibited from any alcohol consumption and will face random drug and alcohol testing during his probation period. He is also required to attend at least one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting each week.
Phelps has already completed a 45-day inpatient treatment program in Arizona and is participating in a Maryland support program, unlike his first DUI arrest in 2004, when he did not have rehabilitative treatment.
In addition to the legal consequences of his arrest, Phelps is suspended from USA Swimming-sanctioned events for six months and will not participate in the 2015 Summer World Championship competition. One of his major sponsors also severed its relationship with the swimmer.
Braverman handed down a “probation before judgement” sentence, which means that the offense will be expunged from Phelps’ record if he successfully completes his probation. Phelps was lucky, but what about those facing DUI charges in Illinois; what could you be facing if you’re pulled over while driving under the influence?
What Are the Illinois Laws?
The DUI blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold in Illinois is 0.08 percent. At this level, a driver is 11 times more likely to be killed in a single-car accident than a driver who has not been drinking. After just one drink, a driver’s coordination is affected by the alcohol and his reaction times slow and, at 0.06 percent, the probably of being in a fatal crash doubles.
It takes about an hour for the body to metabolize a single drink, defined as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor, and BAC rises as much .05 for each drink in some people. This means that someone weighing about 100 pounds will register 0.032 percent after just one drink and well over the 0.08 legal limits, at 0.097 percent, after only three drinks. And, while the legal threshold is 0.08, a driver could be convicted of DUI with a level at or higher than 0.05 if there is proof that he or she was driving while impaired.
Statistics show that there were 34,611 DUI arrests in Illinois in 2013, and that driving privileges were revoked for 93 percent of those arrested. Illinois law allows for a statutory summary suspension, which means that a license is automatically suspended if someone fails or refuses to take a blood alcohol test. When that happens, the arresting officer issues a suspension notice, and it automatically takes effect after 45 days.
What Are the Penalties in Illinois?
Under Illinois DUI laws, Phelps could have faced more stringent punishment, including up to a year’s imprisonment, license suspension up to one year, a requirement to have an ignition interlock device in his vehicle, and up to $2,500 fine for a first offense, with his license suspension extended up to five years for a second offense. He would also have been required to carry a high-risk insurance policy for three years.
Penalties for DUI convictions increase significantly for multiple offenses, and prior offenses include all of those incurred from the first time someone has an Illinois driver license. A sixth or subsequent offense is categorized as a Class X felony, which carries a mandatory jail term of six to 30 years. Considering these consequences, it is never wise to go it alone if you’ve been convicted of a DUI. Seek legal counsel from attorneys who focus on defending those facing DUI convictions.