Local News

Lawson pleads guilty to driving after underage drinking

Posted August 19, 2008 12:21 p.m. EDT
Updated August 22, 2008 11:13 a.m. EDT

— 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.