The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a search warrant to obtain data from the “black box” in the car that was crashed by famous golfer Tiger Woods last week. Sheriff employees confirmed this to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday.
But the Sheriff’s Department has decided not to apply for an arrest warrant to obtain Woods’ blood to determine if he was under the influence of medication at the time of the Feb. 23 crash.
In order to obtain such a black box arrest warrant, law enforcement agencies must demonstrate that there is a likely reason for the commission of a crime, even if it is only a misdemeanor.
A sheriff’s deputy downplayed the warrant as a routine part of his investigation on Tuesday. He said he does not see it as a criminal investigation but as a duty of care. The affidavit the Sheriff’s Department had found such a likely cause was not immediately available.
“We are trying to determine whether a crime has been committed,” Sheriff’s deputy John Schloegl told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “If someone is involved in a traffic accident, we have to reconstruct the traffic accident, if there was reckless driving, if someone was on their cell phone or something. We determine if there was a crime. If there was no crime, we close the case and it was a regular traffic accident. “
Schloegl also said there was “no likely reason” for getting an arrest warrant to obtain Woods’ blood from him or the hospital he went to with broken bones in his right lower leg after the accident.
He added that Woods camp had been cooperative. Woods agent Mark Steinberg did not immediately return an email Tuesday night with a request for comment.
In 2017, Woods was found asleep behind the wheel in Florida with numerous medications on his system, including the sleeping pills Ambien, Vicodin, Xanax, Dilaudid, and THC. This emerges from the later published toxicological report. In January, he announced that he had recently undergone the last of several surgeries on his back.
“We cannot just assume that someone’s story makes him guilty,” said Schloegl. He noted first responders observed Woods remaining vigilant with no sign of impairment after he crashed his vehicle, a Genesis GV80, northbound near Rolling Hills Estates, Los Angeles County.
CAUSE OF THE CRASH:Could Tiger Woods have slept behind the wheel before the crash?
At this point in the investigation, there is a higher standard for law enforcement to obtain blood evidence in such a case, said Jonathan Cherney, a former police officer who is now an expert in accident reconstruction. He said they would need to determine the likely cause of a crime to get medical records compared to the likely cause of at least one misdemeanor to get the black box data.
“If Tiger was under the influence of drugs when he crashed, it’s only an offense if he doesn’t harm anyone but himself,” Cherney said. “That ties their hands until he gets his blood at that point. However, if someone at the crime scene or in the hospital had examined Tiger for objective drug-induced symptoms and found some, they could have justified drawing their blood according to the law (drug driving). “
Cherney and other accident reconstruction experts told USA TODAY Sports The evidence suggests Woods was not paying attention as he left his lane and continued straight instead of sticking to his trail as it turned right. Instead, he walked a median across the curb, threw down a sign, went into opposite lanes, left the street, hit a tree, and rolled over in a car accident.
After reaching the initial curb, he drove about 400 feet in a relatively straight line with no apparent evidence that he had steered out of the curb or braked in the form of skid marks. If he had taken a quick look at his phone, the theory would be that he wouldn’t go that far in a straight line without trying to steer out of it or without leaving more signs of braking on the road.
Cherney, who stepped on the crash scene after it happened, said it looked like one classic case of sleeping at the wheel.
“It’s probably fair to say that if he had stepped on the brakes after jumping the bulkhead, he wouldn’t have traveled that far, had so much damage to the front of his car, and had not had such major injuries to his foot, just because he would have reduced the speed of his vehicle, ”said Cherney.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said last week the crash was “an accident.”
However, the sheriff’s department toned down a bit this Tuesday after USA asked TODAY Sports what the basis of that conclusion was.
“The sheriff discussed the information known at the time and said it appeared to be a traffic accident,” the department said in a statement. “However, the investigation into the traffic accidents is (ongoing) and traffic investigators have not drawn any conclusions as to the cause of the collision.”
Schloegl confirmed that the black box data was downloaded but did not disclose its contents. The data from this can typically indicate the speed, the steering angle, the braking and acceleration activity of the vehicle before the impact.
“When it comes to receiving an arrest warrant or downloading it from the car, we just do it automatically,” said Schloegl. “We want answers, so we take this route.”
He said Genesis took possession of the vehicle.
“We’re done with that,” he said. “We have everything we need.”