UPDATE, 10:30 a.m.: Tiger Woods’ arraignment on a DUI charge was cancelled early Wednesday morning shortly before it was set to begin, with his attorney and an assistant state attorney indicating the 42-year-old golf great probably will enter a first-time DUI offender program that could leave him with a clear record.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis and Woods’ attorney, Douglas Duncan, agreed to postpone what would have been the first hearing since the Woods’ Memorial Day arrest so that they could iron out the specifics of the future plea agreement.
They told a court clerk for Palm Beach County judge Sandra Bosso-Pardo in the North County courthouse that they will return to court Oct. 25, when Woods is expected to plead guilty to a misdemeanor reckless driving charge as part of his agreement to enter the state attorney’s diversion program for first-time DUI offenders.
Though Duncan acknowledged an agreement was imminent, he declined to comment to reporters. Ellis said Woods intends to enter the program but stopped short of saying a deal was in place.
UPDATE, 8:45 a.m.: Tiger Woods is entering the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s first-time DUI offender diversion program, said Mike Edmondson, spokesman for the state attorney after the scheduled hearing for Woods’ arraignment.
No hearing was held. Woods’ attorney, Doug Duncan, didn’t appear in court. He met with an assistant state attorney to set a future court date.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office DUI diversion program for first time offenders allows participants to serve 12 months on probation with special conditions and plead guilty to reckless driving charge they can later have expunged.
Participants in the program are typically required to accept the deal by the time of their arraignments, but local attorneys say prosecutors still could have worked out a similar arrangement for Woods in the future.
UPDATE, 8:35 a.m.: The Tiger Woods hearing is over before it started. The next hearing is set for Oct. 25 at 8:30 a.m.
UPDATE, 8:30 a.m.: Tiger Woods attorney Doug Duncan just walked into the North County courthouse in Palm Beach Gardens for Woods’ arraignment. No sign of Woods.
Reporters were gathered outside the courthouse since 8 a.m.
Original post, 8:00 a.m.: Lawyers for Tiger Woods are expected to plead not guilty to DUI charges on his behalf this morning, marking what will be the first court hearing in his case since Jupiter police found him asleep behind the wheel of his Mercedes on Memorial Day after he took a mix of prescribed medications.
Records filed Tuesday in Palm Beach County Court show prosecutors appear to have deemed the 42-year-old golfer eligible for a diversion program for first-time DUI offenders.
Woods’ attorney, Douglas Duncan, declined to discuss any details of the case late Tuesday, except to confirm that Woods will not attend today’s 8:30 a.m. hearing.
Local attorneys not involved with the case but who specialize in DUI defenses say a deal could be in the works but that it is more likely that Duncan will enter a not guilty plea and ask Palm Beach County Judge Sandra Bosso-Pardo for a future hearing date in the case.
Woods told police at the time of his arrest that he was taking the painkiller Vicodin after a recent back surgery and also had a prescription for Xanax. A pair of Breathalyzer tests at the Palm Beach County jail showed he had no alcohol in his system, but video from his time at the station showed he appeared drowsy and had trouble staying alert.
Woods was initially charged with DUI, but prosecutors on Tuesday filed charging documents for one count each of DUI and reckless driving — a move that could allow him to enter a program that would allow him to serve 12 months’ probation and have prosecutors drop the DUI in exchange for a guilty plea on the driving charge.
“That’s standard,” defense attorney Barry Paul said of the court filings. “I see that all the time in cases with my clients whether they’re planning to take the diversion or not.”
Paul said there is a possibility that Duncan could have a deal in the works. Although the diversion program normally requires defendants to accept the deal at the time of arraignment, Duncan could work out a similar deal later.
Even if Woods enters the program, Paul said, the fact that he had no alcohol in his system means that Duncan would likely get prosecutors to skip the requirement that Woods have his car outfitted with an interlock device requiring him to blow into a breath-test machine before starting his car.
Woods would also likely be allowed to travel while on probation, and could even qualify to report to probation by mail.
On the night of his arrest, Woods agreed to give authorities a urine sample, but the results of those tests have not been entered into court records and likely won’t be available for several weeks.
While Duncan and others work on his case, Woods appears to be treating his arrest as a temporary setback to his ultimate plan to return to professional golf.
Woods in a tweet Tuesday applauded the joint announcement by the PGA and PGA tour that the PGA and Players championship tournaments will be played two months apart starting in 2019.
Just five days before his encounter with police, Tiger in a blog post discussed his April back surgery and said he unequivocally wanted to play professional golf again. He compared himself to golfers Davis Love III, Retief Goosen, Lee Trevino, Lanny Wadkins and Dudley Hart — all of whom have had spinal fusions or disc replacement surgeries and returned to the PGA tour.
Woods said he explored multiple nonsurgical remedies before he had the surgery but grew tired of living with constant back pain.
“Even lying down hurt. I had nerve pain with anything I did and was at the end of my rope,” Woods said, later adding of the surgery results: “There’s a long way to go, but as I said, words cannot convey how good it feels to be pain-free.”
Shortly after his arrest, Woods tweeted a statement to his fans letting them know he was getting professional help to manage his use of prescription drugs to manage his pain from the surgery as well as a sleep disorder.
More recent photos of him have surfaced showing him in the Bahamas working out at a gym and diving for lobsters with his children.
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