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Lawson pleads guilty to driving after underage drinking

Posted August 19, 2008
Updated August 22, 2008

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— University of North Carolina basketball player Ty Lawson pleaded guilty Tuesday in Orange County court to underage drinking and driving.

Lawson, 20, was arrested in June after Chapel Hill police stopped his car on North Columbia Street because officers heard loud music coming from it. Lawson took a roadside breath test, which registered 0.03.

The state's per se limit of intoxication is 0.08, but there is no legal amount that Lawson can drink because he is under 21, the state drinking age.

Lawson was granted a prayer for judgment on a charge of driving after consuming alcohol under age 21. Charges of violating Chapel Hill's noise ordinance and driving with a suspended or revoked license were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

A prayer for judgment is a legal technique that puts a conviction on hold indefinitely.

"He was not treated any differently from anyone else who gets this kind of charge. He abided by all the conditions the same as anyone else," Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Neiman said.

Lawson was ordered to perform 24 hours of community service – he already has finished 26 hours. He also has completed an alcohol assessment and written a four-page paper after watching "Smashed," a video about underage drinking and driving, to meet other conditions of his sentence.

"It made me think of how lucky I am that nothing bad happened that night to me or to anyone else. Drinking and driving do not mix," he wrote in the report.

In the report, he also referred to Chris Kearney, a UNC tennis player charged with hitting two pedestrians early Sunday in what police have described as an alcohol-related wreck, also on North Columbia Street.

Lawson had his Maryland driver's license reinstated by completing other requirements in Wake County, authorities said. He had lost his driving privileges in November after failing to show up to court for a May 2007 speeding violation.

"I learned from what I did," he said after his court hearing. "A lot of people could have been hurt from this, like my parents (or) my teammates, if it went further and I did something worse.

"It's been a lot of stress on my family and things like that, so it's great to have it behind me," he said.

UNC athletics officials and coach Roy Williams declined to comment on Lawson's plea, so it was unclear whether it would affect his status on the Tar Heels basketball team, where he has been the starting point guard.

94 Comments

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  • mpheels Aug 20, 2008

    PowderedToastMan, I didn't realize that Jeffrey Price was a pro or college athlete. But since he was out driving on a revoked license after prior DUIs when he hit those bicyclists the other night, instead of sitting in jail, he must be a super star according to your logic.

    Truth be told, Lawson got pretty much the same treatment as anyone else facing the same charges in Orange County. If anything, he faced harsher treatment than the average 20 year old. He was not drunk, there would be DUI charges if he were. If he had been pulled over 6 months later (after his 21st bday) the only charges would be revoked license and noise ordinance - both things easily cleared up in fines/court fees.

  • PowderedToastMan Aug 20, 2008

    The courts just made the message clear: It's OK to drink and drive and it's OK to drive with a suspended license....as long as you're a start ACC basketball player or a professional athlete.

  • Coach K is GREAT Aug 20, 2008

    Coach K is GREAT: Maybe 0.03 is not drunk, that depends on the person, personally I dont think he was. He was DUI, driving under the influence, or DWI, driving while intoxicated. He had alcohol in his system, therefore he was "under the influence/intoxicated". He shouldnt get special treatment. He shouldnt be drinking, plain and simple, especially as an athlete. I'm sure they have a special set of rules for athletes at UNC too.

    BTW: I've been pulled over for loud music in Raleigh before, so yea, the police do that stuff. I hadnt been drinking, so I was let go.
    aerolove2k
    August 19, 2008 8:50 p.m.
    Report abuse

    I think you have me confused with another poster...

  • Coach K is GREAT Aug 20, 2008

    It is time we stopped the hypocrisy and lowered the drinking age to 18. Let's see...I can purchase and possess handguns/shotguns yet I can't decide if I am responsible enough to purchase/consume a beer. I can decide to kill someone with that same handgun/shotgun and then be tried as an adult(and if I am lucky enough, I can be executed for said crime), yet I can't decide if I am responsible enough to purchase/consume a beer.
    tennisluvr
    August 19, 2008 7:55 p.m.
    Report abuse

    or... I can't decide whether or not i'm responsible enough not to drink and drive as a immature teenager...

  • readme Aug 20, 2008

    This is not a big deal at all. I'm not saying he should have done it, but he can still be considered of good character after this. He was not drunk and endangering the lives of others. And personally I think a 20 year-old should be able to drink a couple beers anyway. The government is wrong to prevent them from drinking, but still allow them to vote and die for their country.

  • veyor Aug 20, 2008

    He'll be in the news again when he turns pro.

  • clover1019 Aug 20, 2008

    its completely moronic that you can go die for your country or save how many lives in war...but then you cant come enjoy a cold one afterwards. if your going to do something illegal-such as drinking underage- do it incognito. College students are going to drink. we should spend more time influencing them to be safe about it and not drive than trying to take the blind eye and push not drinking at all.

  • aerolove2k Aug 19, 2008

    Coach K is GREAT: Maybe 0.03 is not drunk, that depends on the person, personally I dont think he was. He was DUI, driving under the influence, or DWI, driving while intoxicated. He had alcohol in his system, therefore he was "under the influence/intoxicated". He shouldnt get special treatment. He shouldnt be drinking, plain and simple, especially as an athlete. I'm sure they have a special set of rules for athletes at UNC too.

    BTW: I've been pulled over for loud music in Raleigh before, so yea, the police do that stuff. I hadnt been drinking, so I was let go.

  • djofraleigh Aug 19, 2008

    UNC and other colleges allow a culture of drinking. Ty might have had a beer, but he got caught, and I don't understand the dropping of the driving with a revoked license as a part of a plea?

    I wish a reporter would see WHERE he did his community service. There is a story in who does what where for community service.

    I hope Ty had uncomfortable service so he learns. He might not yet be a spoiled athlete and this might help the guy come bigger things.

  • tennisluvr Aug 19, 2008

    It is time we stopped the hypocrisy and lowered the drinking age to 18. Let's see...I can purchase and possess handguns/shotguns yet I can't decide if I am responsible enough to purchase/consume a beer. I can decide to kill someone with that same handgun/shotgun and then be tried as an adult(and if I am lucky enough, I can be executed for said crime), yet I can't decide if I am responsible enough to purchase/consume a beer.

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