Photo: John Fischer
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup in full swing in Brazil, the game of soccer has taken center stage in sports news and is the topic of water cooler discussions among fans and non-fans alike. However, given his DUI arrest on May 19, Real Salt Lake (RSL) midfielder Sebastian Velasquez may have other things on his mind as well, and concerns are being raised in regards to the incident.
Details of the DUI Arrest
According to the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, early morning on Monday May 19, Sebastian Velasquez, 23, was pulled over driving 84 mph in a 65 mph zone of I-15 near 2700 South. The trooper on the scene reported that Velasquez had a distinct odor of alcohol on his breath. After failing a field sobriety test, he was given a breathalyzer test which registered 0.199, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.
Velasquez was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail at 5:18 a.m. and formally charged with a DUI class B misdemeanor and a class C misdemeanor for speeding on May 27. An arraignment for June 2 was cancelled when Velasquez’s attorney entered a notice of appearance and a plea of not guilty.
Standard DUI Arrest Penalties
According to Utah Code 41-6a-505, the penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol involves several things if it is a first conviction. This may include:
- a minimum 48 hour jail sentence
- compensatory-service work program or home confinement of not fewer than 48 hours
- minimum $700 fine
- court mandated participation in an assessment
- participation in an educational series or substance abuse treatment
- probation if there is evidence of a blood alcohol level of 0.16 or higher
Concerns Specific to the Velasquez Case
This is not Sebastian Velasquez’s first run-in with alcohol abuse. In a candid discussion with students at North Davis Junior High in Layton, Utah, in January of 2014, Velasquez admitted to using drugs and alcohol after dropping out of school as a way to escape his problems. Even though he told those students that he realized his poor behavior wasn’t getting him anywhere–especially closer to his dream of becoming a professional soccer player–it seems he hasn’t entirely left that behavior behind.
Even though RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey has been quoted as saying they are following the protocol for situations such as these and Velasquez is already back on the field, there are still some issues that can’t be ignored. The first of which is the fact that this is a team which has away games in Canada.
Canada’s Tough Stance Regarding a DUI Arrest
Many tourists to Canada have been surprised when they attempted to cross the border with their passport in hand only to be turned away because of a prior DUI arrest.
The fact is that Canada takes a much harsher stance when it comes to drunk driving, and border officers may choose to send you packing if you try to enter the country with a conviction. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t driving when you attempt to cross or even if you don’t plan on driving at all. It has been reported that tourists wanting to take a ferry to Victoria for one day walking tours are regularly turned away for having a DUI arrest.
In order to enter Canada with a previous conviction, you have two choices. You can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit which is issued for a limited period of time. However, these permits are primarily intended for a specific purpose in traveling, of which simply “going on vacation” is not generally included. If five years has passed since the completion of your sentence for the DUI, including any fines, service or probation, you can petition the Canadian Immigration Authorities for a “Criminal Rehabilitation” permit.
When it comes to familiar faces such as Sebastian Velasquez, the rules still apply. Even former U.S. President George W. Bush had to apply for a waiver to enter Canada as a result of a 1976 offense in Maine. Fortunately for Velasquez, the Temporary Resident Permit can potentially be valid for multiple visits up to three years.
A Question of Public Perception
Perhaps of greater concern is the age old discussion of what we expect from our public figures. Whether it’s regarding a movie star, politician, musician or sports figure, many people would say that these public figures should hold themselves to a higher standard, especially when they are viewed in high esteem in the eyes of the youth.
Others would say that these figures aren’t superhuman just because they are more in the public eye. In fact, the pressures of such positions are often attributed as being one of the antecedents to criminal behavior. In the case of Velasquez, who has confessed to his own struggles with substance abuse and tried to lead youth down a smarter road, perhaps he deserves some lenience. This path of forgiveness and moving forward seems to be the one being taken by the management of the RSL club.
A pretrial conference for Velasquez’s case has been scheduled for Monday, August 20 in Salt Lake City Justice Court.