17 Aug Miami Heat Player’s Traffic Stop Leads to Felony Drug Charges
Udonis Haslem, the thirty-year-old former University of Florida superstar who now plays forward for the Miami Heat NBA basketball team, was pulled over in Miami-Dade County this weekend and arrested on felony drug possession charges. His black Mercedes was impounded and the state of Florida has since filed paperwork to permanently retain the sedan. Haslem was released from custody later that day.
Haslem was cited by Florida’s Highway Patrol for possession of more than twenty grams of marijuana, a felony. Haslem’s passenger, Antwain Flemin, admitted that the drugs were his and was charged with possession of less than twenty grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor in Florida. The drugs were found in luggage belonging to Flemin, along with documents bearing Flemin’s name. In addition to drugs, officers discovered that Haslem had a gun in the car. This weekend’s traffic stop is Haslem’s first brush with drug charges.
In Florida, this type of felony drug possession carries a maximum possible sentence of five years imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, and a two-year loss of driving privileges. On the other hand, Flemin’s misdemeanor charge carries a possible $1,000 fine and loss of driving privileges for one year.
Haslem’s lawyer claims that his client is being singled out due to his status as a NBA star, and is receiving harsher treatment than others in his situation would be receiving. The lawyer is arguing for all charges against Haslem to be dropped and claims that the gun was legally registered to Haslem and, thus, was in his possession legally.
Florida’s Highway Patrol announced that Haslem was originally pulled over at approximately three o’clock in the afternoon because he was speeding and had illegal window tinting. Once the officer approached the vehicle, he claims to have smelled pot coming from the car’s interior. The cop actually pulled his gun during the confrontation. Haslem identified himself as a professional basketball player and notified the officer that there was a gun in the glove compartment of the Mercedes. He also consented to the initial vehicle search.
After the officer initially searched the Mercedes, however, he then called in a drug dog for further processing. It was during this period that Haslem tried, unsuccessfully, to retract his consent for the vehicle search. Flemin readily acknowledged that the three bags of pot produced in the search belonged to him.
Haslem received a citation for driving almost 80 in a 60 mph zone, in addition to being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Since the pot was not actually on Haslem’s person, and Flemin readily admitted to owning the drugs, Haslem is being charged on the theory of constructive possession. Haslem’s attorney argues that this type of possession charge should not result in forfeiture of Haslem’s car. To make a case for forfeiture in Florida, the state will have to prove that the drugs belonged to Haslem or that he knew that they were in his car.
As for Haslem’s professional career, it is unclear what, if any, ramification’s the incident will have on his ability to play ball. Haslem recently extended his relationship with the Miami Heat by signing a new five-year contract worth around $20 million. He had turned down more lucrative offers from Denver and Dallas in order to stay in Miami to be closer to his mother who was suffering from cancer.
The National Basketball League (NBA) offers a confidential marijuana program for players who have issues with marijuana use. Participation in the NBA’s counseling program is optional for a player who gets a first drug-related offense. For a second offense, the player must pay a $25,000 fine and may need to enter an in-patent drug rehab program. For a third drug violation, the player will be suspended for five games. However, a player who is citied for any felony crime may be subject to game suspension, whether or not it is a first offense. Details of a player’s participation in the NBA marijuana program are confidential.
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