It was basically impossible to escape on a national scale, but here in Baltimore it was an even bigger deal than that. The drunk driving arrest of Michael Phelps — the greatest Olympian ever, holder of more Gold medals than anyone else ever, and a hometown hero in Baltimore — was all over the news, and for good reason.
However, there are very serious issues that are related to the Michael Phelps drunk driving case. For one, this celebrity athlete clearly has some substance issues. This is the second DUI he has received in his life, and there was, of course, the unfortunate photo of him smoking from what appears to be a bong. There are some clear issues here that he needs to address — and removed from the context of Michael Phelps, this is a crucial part of drunk driving cases in general.
People who make the mistake of drinking and then driving often have some substance issues they need to work out. Treatment is their best chance at correcting the issue, not serious legal penalties that stick with them for a majority of their life. And yet, this is the course of action we always take: punishment over treatment.
The Michael Phelps story also highlights the “other” punishment that comes with a drunk driving arrest: the personal and professional fallout. Phelps was suspended for six months by USA Swimming, denting his comeback attempt for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
People accused of drunk driving often feel such professional consequences. They may lose their job or find it very hard to get work. Defending drunk driving charges is paramount not only to limit the legal damage the charge may cause, but also the indirect consequences of the charge.
Source: USA Today, “Michael Phelps suspended 6 months by USA Swimming,” Nicole Auerbach, Oct. 6, 2014