5 Legal Lessons From Michael Phelps' DUI

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 02, 2014 8:13 AM

Although celebrities may be immune from many of the potential pitfalls facing everyday people, being arrested for DUI is certainly not one of them.

The latest celebrity to face drunken driving charges is 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who was arrested and charged with DUI Tuesday after being pulled over for speeding in a Maryland tunnel, reports ESPN.

What legal lessons can be gleaned from Phelps' (latest) DUI arrest? Here are five:

  1. Prior DUIs convictions can mean increased penalties. Repeat DUI offenses can result in increased criminal penalties. In Phelps' case, he was arrested 10 years ago for another DUI in Maryland, and pleaded guilty in exchange for being granted probation. While it's not yet clear how that will affect his latest DUI case, in general, a prior DUI can potentially affect one's ability to receive a similar reduced sentence for subsequent DUIs.
  2. High BAC can also lead to increased penalties in some states. According to ESPN, Phelps' blood alcohol concentration was measured at 0.14 percent, well above Maryland's legal limit of 0.08 percent. In some states, high BAC readings can lead to charges of aggravated or extreme DUI, which are generally punished more harshly than a standard DUI conviction.
  3. Refusing field sobriety tests won't prevent your arrest. According to ESPN, officers arrested Phelps after he refused to take one of the field sobriety tests they had instructed him to take. Unlike breath tests, which most drivers are obligated to take under their state's implied consent laws, you may in some circumstances refuse to take other forms of field sobriety tests such as the one Phelps refused. However, doing so will not likely prevent you from being arrested if an officer suspects DUI.
  4. Speeding violations can lead to DUI stops and arrests. In Phelps' case, he was stopped by police after being clocked going almost 40 mph over the speed limit and driving recklessly inside a tunnel. Generally police must have reasonable suspicion to initiate a DUI stop, which can be provided by speeding or other traffic violations.
  5. You will probably want a lawyer. DUI cases can be complex. And while news reports don't indicate whether Phelps has hired an attorney for his case, an experienced DUI lawyer can do many things that a lay person probably can't, such as advising you on your legal options.

Learn more about DUI arrests, charges, and cases at FindLaw's section on DUI Law.

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