BY Susan M. Brazas for Lawyers.com
Something tarnished the shine of the Olympic medals won by the invincible and untouchable champions: Photos surfaced of marijuana use; test results came out positive for steroids. Booking photos showed arrests for DUI and cocaine possession. Should we have higher expectations for celebrity sports figures?
Drug Usage Can Break a Contract
Professional athletes are often under contract with their team owner, agent and endorsement companies. Any of these contracts may include conditions that each party must meet or they can be found in breach of the contract. The contract can provide specific consequences such as termination or a monetary penalty. The contract can likely provide a way to resolve disputes, such as arbitration or mediation. The parties will also have the opportunity to file a court action unless it's prohibited by an arbitration clause.
Using drugs can also mean that an athlete will be banned from further competition in his sport. He could also be stripped of medals or titles earned during the period of drug use. For endorsements, it's likely means the endorsing company will drop the athlete from any future product endorsements.
Serious Implications for Non-Celebrities
In general, using drugs carries many possible consequences to anyone, celebrity or otherwise. These include a potential negative impact on employment, aspirations for political office, community leadership and even a promotion or business venture that depends on goodwill and reputation.
Employers may require their employees to report being charged with certain criminal offenses, such as DUI and drug offenses. Be sure to review your employee handbook or rules for details on reporting requirements. A loss of driving privileges, even if only temporary, can mean immediate termination for some employees. Especially if the employee's duties require driving.
Someone charged with DUI or a drug offense may expect that pleading guilty, and getting "court supervision" or "deferred prosecution" will shield them from any negative impact on his driver's license or employment status. However, these options don't lower the impact on your license in some states. For example, pleading guilty to DUI and receiving one year of court supervision in an Illinois court won't be considered a conviction if you meet the terms of the supervision, and have an Illinois license.
However, a person in Wisconsin will learn the hard way that the Wisconsin DMV doesn't honor "court supervision" from Illinois. The DUI will show up on the person's driving abstract as a conviction, and most likely leads to a loss of driving privileges for a period of time.
Each state's driver's licensing agency has different, specific rules for the impact of DUI or drug offense arrests or convictions on a person's driver's license. In some states, if a person pleads guilty to DUI soon after being charged, and before completing a substantial portion of recommended alcohol treatment, his license may be suspended as soon as the license bureau receives the word from the court of the guilty plea.
It's extremely important to consult with an attorney before making any court appearances on a DUI or drug charge. You'll get critical insight into the impact of a guilty plea or conviction on present and future driving privileges.
Questions for Your Attorney
- If someone breaks the law, say an isolated incident of drug use or a DUI violation, how accessible is information about the incident?
- Are there any protections addressing use of information related to a criminal incident? Are employers, creditors or insurers restricted in using that type of information?
- What happens when someone travels or does business in several states and each state treats a criminal situation differently? Would someone under court supervision in Illinois with an Illinois license have cause for concern when driving in another state, such as Wisconsin?