Athletes and DUI: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 20th, 2015

From guest blogger Matt Hartman:
 

In a news article entitled "Virginia Tech’s Newsome Charged with DUI, Suspended from Play", the Roanoke Times reported yesterday that police arrested Virginia Tech wide receiver Deon Newsome for DUI and public intoxication charges.

If Newsome is convicted, Virginia law classifies a DUI charge, while under 21, as a criminal offense, resulting in a year-long driver’s license suspension, a minimum fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service, and up to 12 months in jail. On top of this, public intoxication charges also carry a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service.

In addition to legal consequences, Newsome is facing heavy scrutiny and consequences with his team. For public figures, especially athletes, DUI charges can be particularly troublesome. The team released a statement that Newsome is currently suspended indefinitely, but allowed to continue attending practice. According to the Daily Press, after being questioned on Monday, Virginia Tech’s coach stated, “That’s all we’re going to say about that.”

Newsome’s suspension is somewhat troubling, although not uncommon in college sports. Teams often suspend players before they’re found guilty, likely due to the negative press. The actions, however, reflect larger societal standards of often forgetting that people are innocent until proven guilty.

After receiving a DUI convictions, suspensions, and even terminations, are even less uncommon. Most players sign a sobriety provision with their contract. The NFL, for example, suspends players for two games after a first-time DUI violation, after upping the consequences in 2014.

While Newsome currently only faces suspension, he might face heavier consequences if convicted, including termination from the team. Newsome, who already didn’t play much this season, faces a possible early-end to his football career, if convicted. If on a scholarship, the consequences might be even more severe, forcing him to lose the scholarship.

Newsome’s case shows just how severe DUI charges can be to a public figure’s career, even if not convicted of the charges.
 

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