Professional athletes may have more talent, speed, and agility out on the field or court than we could ever hope to have, but it rarely seems to help them stay out of trouble with the law. When it comes to having a brush with the law, professional athletes are no less vulnerable than the rest of us. If you don’t follow professional sports (or even if you do) you may be shocked to discover how many current and past pro athletes have a criminal record. 

NFL players seem to be the most susceptible, but no corner of the professional sport keeps a clean slate. Since 2000, active NFL players have been arrested 855 times, which includes 215 DUI charges, 99 drug charges, 96 domestic violence charges, 71 assaults, and 2 murders. 

The NFL team with the most arrests is the Minnesota Vikings, who have 49 of those charges to their name. A close second is the Denver Broncos, with 47 arrests. In third, is the Cincinnati Bengals, though their number (44) is bolstered significantly due to their player Adam “Pacman” Jones, who you can read about below. 

Currently, 4.71% of active players have been arrested, which is lower than the arrest rate for the whole of the US. Out of 1720 active players, only 81 have been arrested. DUI is the most common crime, though domestic violence and assault and battery when combined outweigh DUIs. The arrest rate for NFL players in 2019 is currently much lower than any other year since 2000, and most arrests take place out of season. 

Here are nine professional athletes who have been arrested or charged for crimes during their professional career. 

Pacman Jones 

Pacman Jones is an NFL player who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble, in fact, he’s been arrested ten times. If you’re looking for a professional athlete to prove that great players can get away with almost anything, Jones is it. 

Most of his offenses took place on a night out. He was first arrested and charged in 2005 with assault and vandalism for an altercation in a night club. A year later he was arrested for disorderly conduct and public intoxication. 

In 2007 he spent $40,000 on a dance at Minxx Gentlemen’s Club in Las Vegas, which resulted in a fight when he attacked the dancer, gunshots were fired, resulting in several injured and one club employee was paralyzed. He surrendered to the Las Vegas police four months later and was released on a $20,000 bail. He cooperated with the police and so only received probation and community service, but later was ordered to pay $12.4 million in total to the victims of that event. 

Cristiano Renaldo   

The world-famous soccer player has been the subject of a lawsuit filed in September of 2018 in Nevada accusing him of rape. A woman alleged that he paid her $375,000 to stay quiet about an incident that took place a decade ago in 2009. The lawsuit was dropped in June 2019, though the federal suit remains active. 

Ray Lewis 

Ray Lewis is a former linebacker who played exclusively for the Baltimore Ravens. On January 31, 2000, Lewis was involved in an incident which resulted in two men being stabbed to death in Atlanta, Georgia. No one has ever been officially charged with the crime, but Lewis pled guilty to obstruction of justice in the case for which he received 12 months of probation. He was also fined $250,000 by the NFL, which was the largest fine to date for an infraction that did not involve substance abuse. 

Many believe he was involved as the white suit he was wearing that night was never found, the victims’ blood was found in his limo, and he allegedly told those with him to “keep their mouth[s] shut.” However, the incident did not harm his NFL career, as the next year, he was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP. 

Tiger Woods 

Tiger Woods has been in and out of the media for years for his alleged infidelity, but he was also subject of a DUI charge in Jupiter, Florida in May of 2017. Woods had prescription painkillers, sleep drugs, and traces of marijuana in his system. He agreed to enter a diversion program and his charge was later dropped. 

Nick Fairley 

Nick Fairley is one of many NFL stars who have a DWI charge to their name. In 2012 he was arrested on drunk-driving charges in Alabama, when he allegedly passed a state trooper doing 100mph in an Escalade. He then tried to flee when the troopers asked him to pull over. He was sentenced to a suspended six-month jail term, a year of probation, and a $600 fine. 

Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius is the famous South African amputee athlete who competed in both the Paralympic games and the 2012 Olympics, where he became the first double-leg amputee to compete at the Olympics. 

On Valentine’s Day in 2013, he woke up in the middle of the night and fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, allegedly believing her to be an intruder. The case garnered a huge amount of media attention worldwide due to the interesting details of the case. 

When he woke up in the middle of the night and heard movement in the bathroom, he did not assume the empty spot next to him in bed was a sign that is was his own girlfriend, but instead took his shotgun and fired it through the bathroom door, killing Steenkamp. 

In 2014 at his trial, he was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to 5 years in prison, and a concurrent 3-year suspended sentence for a separate reckless endangerment conviction. 

Just a year later, he was released on temporary house arrest as his case was presented to the Supreme Court of Appeal, due to the outcry by the public and Steenkamp’s family, where the previous sentence was overturned and he was convicted of murder, and finally sentenced to 13 years and 5 months. 

Von Miller 

Von Miller is a linebacker for the Denver Broncos (NFL), and was arrested in 2013 on a warrant for failing to appear in court for a traffic violation, while also being on suspension by the NFL for a drug violation. The original violation was for careless driving and no proof of insurance. 

Five years later, in July of 2018, he was caught speeding doing 71mph on a 45mph street, in his Ford 150 pickup. Upon being pulled over, he told the officer he was late for work. 

Michael Floyd 

Michael Floyd is a wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens (NFL) and has previously played for the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, and Washington Redskins. It was during his time with the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 that he had his most famous arrest, however, it was not his only brush with the law. 

Floyd was suspended indefinitely in 2011 by Notre Dame after he was caught driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit. His coach at the time, Brian Kelly, said the suspension would not be lifted until he changed his ways. “Football needs to take a backseat at the moment while Michael gets his life in order,” he said. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an event Floyd learned from. Just hours after the Cardinals lost to the Dolphins in Miami, police officers found Floyd slumped at the wheel of his running vehicle in the middle of the road at 2.48am, sleeping. He was charged with two counts of DUI. 

In February of 2017 he was found guilty and sentenced to 24 days in jail, a $5,000 fine, 30 hours of community service, and 96 days house arrest.

Marion Jones 

The statistics show that male athletes are the most likely to come off the tracks, but that doesn’t mean female professional athletes are all saintly either. Marion Jones, who won 5 medals (3 gold, 2 bronze) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was stripped of her medals after it was discovered that she took performance-enhancing drugs, was found to be connected to check-fraud, and lied to the federal agents who investigated her case. 

She was sentenced to six months in prison, two years of probation, and 400 hours of community service per year of her probation. 

Professional athletes often have millions in the bank, and although it doesn’t make them above the law, it does often help them get a severely reduced sentence or avoid being charged altogether because they have a great criminal defense lawyer at their side. If you live in the St. Louis, MO area and are facing similar charges to those any of the athletes above faced, contact Combs Law Group today for your free consultation

About Chris Combs

A St. Louis native and graduate of Saint Louis University Law School, Chris Combs has been recognized as one of St. Louis' top criminal defense and personal injury attorneys. He is passionate about getting positive results for all his clients and values personal communication above all.

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