Michael Phelps, marijuana and the Sheriff

The media and internet are all abuzz about a photo where Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps is alleged to have been smoking marijuana from a bong.  Apparently, Phelps made some vague admission about inappropriate behavior.  Personal views about marijuana, drugs, athletes and the media aside – what about basic criminal law and procedure?

From the ABA Journal (American Bar Association):  Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that he “will charge Phelps with a crime” if he can prove there was marijuana smoked in his jurisdiction.

I can almost picture the good Sheriff hiking up his gun belt and swaggering just a little as he boldly announced this to the media.

One little glitch, Sheriff – how are you going to prove the corpus of the crime?  Each and every crime has elements that must be proven.  Each must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction.  But before you get too comfortable with the notion you’ll convict Phelps with a photo and his own words – what about proof that there actually WAS marijuana there?  Remember – gotta prove the corpus before you can introduce a self-incriminating statement.

Are you planning a bong round-up?  Calling the CSI team out to match any bongs rounded up in your jurisdiction with the one in the now infamous photo?

You got your 15 minutes of fame.  Let’s move on, huh?  I’m sure Mr. Phelps will be tried in the media and in the all-important endorsement court of law, which is more than your 30-day, $570 dollar fine misdemeanor will ever do to him.  Move along, now.

*** UPDATE*** Well, the good sheriff has seen the light.  Still grasping onto his 15 minutes of fame, the sheriff announced in a press conference that no charges would be filed against Phelps for the crime of the century.

Wasting taxpayer dollars After their investigation, they did find the evil bong.  As the reason the sheriff cited for not filing charges against Phelps, he said they couldn’t prove he had smoked from it.  Sheriff Lott said, “We had a photo and we had him saying he was sorry for his inappropriate behavior,” Lott said. “That behavior could’ve been going to a party. He never said, ‘I smoked marijuana.’ He never confessed that.”

Wow.  Glad you finally got it.  Sorry it took you weeks and who knows how many tax dollars to figure that out.  You could have just called me. No charge for the initial consultation at my office.

Original article here.

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