UPDATE (3:07): The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) just held a press conference. FHP announced that Tiger Woods was found “at fault” in his traffic accident, guilty of careless driving. The fine is $164 and four points on his driving record. This ends the Florida Highway Patrol’s investigation.
FHP determined “that there was insufficient evidence to issue a subpoena for any further evidence. There are no claims of domestic violence by any individual.”
Hmm… No evidence, you say? It looks like not talking was in fact the smart thing to do.
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Lawyers, members of the bar, law students, and others with a smattering of legal training: we all have a duty to stand up and defend Tiger Woods’s decision to keep his mouth shut. The mainstream media has this story completely wrong, and it is up to us — those blessed with a basic understanding of criminal jurisprudence — to educate the public about why Tiger is staying silent. We must explain to our mothers and fathers and doormen and bodega owners that Tiger probably has to keep his mouth shut, in order to keep his wife out of jail.
I’ve explained elsewhere that we are looking at a potential domestic violence situation. If some of the reports are true, Elin Nordegren attacked her husband, allegedly threatening him with a golf club.
Now this is the part that laypeople seem to be having difficulty grasping. Just because Tiger is a man doesn’t mean he gets to decide whether or not his wife gets prosecuted for domestic violence. Criminal law doesn’t work that way. If the police find that Elin Nordegren assaulted Tiger, then this process gets taken out of Tiger’s hands. Right now, shutting up is the only thing Tiger can do if he wants to retain a modicum of control over the situation.
Especially in Florida.
More details, after the jump.
Hanna Rosin at Double X does an excellent job of explaining why domestic is something that they take very seriously down in Florida:
In 1991, Florida became one of many states to set up a pro-arrest policy in domestic-violence cases. For years, feminist advocates had complained that police treated domestic-violence cases as private, family matters and assumed the abused spouse would never follow through and press charges.
Beginning in the 1990s, laws began virtually to force the police to take action. The new statutes direct police to figure out who was the “primary aggressor” in a domestic dispute. They make a call based on a checklist (bruises, disparity of physical size), and then they make an arrest. Howls of protest from the abused spouse are to be ignored: “The decision to arrest and charge shall not require the consent of the victim or consideration of the relationship of the parties,” the Florida law reads.
Remember, this is a good law. It protects victims of domestic violence who are dissuaded from assisting the criminal prosecution of their abusers out of fear of retribution.
And (rightly) the door swings both ways. It doesn’t take into account the gender of the alleged attacker or victim. The police have a duty to investigate Elin Nordegren and pursue any criminal charges that may be relevant.
That Tiger might not want this to happen couldn’t matter less. It’s not his call.
Now, laypeople seem to be really struggling with this concept. Tiger Woods — the greatest golfer in the world, and a man — might not be able to stop his wife from going to jail for allegedly attacking him? Why doesn’t he just come clean and tell us what really happened?
Well, if the allegations about Elin Nordegren are true and Tiger wants to keep her out of jail, then his best response right now is to keep his mouth shut. Especially when cops are around. You lawyers know the drill: don’t talk, don’t answer questions, don’t cooperate, don’t agree, don’t speak English, don’t remember — for the love of God, just shut up!
Of course, this makes some people mad. On ESPN this morning, I heard one commentator say: “There are two courts, the court of law and the court of public opinion. While he might be doing the right legal thing, he’s doing the worst thing in the most important court.”
The most important court? Who are these people? It seems to me that the most important court is the one that sends your wife to the pokey.
But even the esteemed editor of our sister site Fashionista has taken the pro-yacking argument. Abby Gardner tells me that by staying silent, Tiger is hurting his brand name and his image. She says that from a public relations standpoint, Tiger should be out in front of this story.
I’d love to hear Tiger make this argument to Elin: “Hi honey. You know, even though you (allegedly) attacked me because I (allegedly) cheated on you, I can keep you out of jail. But I’ve decided against it. You see, it’s hurting my brand and my image to keep my mouth shut right now. Sorry. Don’t worry, I’ll find a really good (hot) babysitter to take care of the kids while you serve your time.”
Talking would be the dumbest thing Tiger can do right now, if he wants to help his wife. Lawyers understand this fact better than most. Please spread the word so I can watch SportsCenter without spitting up my coffee.
Tiger’s Best Reason To Lie [Double X]
Tiger Learns Domestic Violence Only Counts If You’re A Woman [True/Slant]
Earlier: Some Legal Angles on the Tiger Woods Story