Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem faces felony drug possession charges stemming from a traffic stop on a Miami-Dade parkway Sunday afternoon during which the Heat star forward and a friend were arrested.
The Florida Highway Patrol cited Haslem with felony possession of marijuana in excess of 20 grams. His passenger in the vehicle, Antwain Fleming, acknowledged that the luggage containing the marijuana was his, and he was charged with misdemeanor possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Fleming is not associated with the Heat.
Haslem’s black 2008 Mercedes sedan was impounded after the arrest and the state Monday filed notice it will attempt to permanently seize the vehicle.
Haslem’s attorney Eric Schwartzreich saidl Monday that the felony charges were filed “because of who Udonis Haslem is. Udonis Haslem shouldn’t be charged with anything.”
In addition, at the time of the stop, Haslem acknowledged possession of a firearm in the vehicle.
“There’s nothing illegal with that whatsoever,” Schwartzreich said. “It’s not going to elevate the charges. I expect no charges in connection of that. That’s lawful possession of a firearm.”
Lt. Mark Wysocky of the Highway Patrol said in a statement that Haslem, 30, was arrested after a traffic stop along the Gratigny Parkway. that also resulted in the former University of Florida and Miami High standout being cited for unlawful speed .
He was cited for traveling at 78 mph in a 60 mph zone and illegal window tint. He was also charged with four counts with possessing drug paraphernalia.
Haslem, has not previously been linked to marijuana or other substance-abuse issues during his seven seasons with the Miami Heat.
According to the FHP statement, “Mr. Haslem was traveling eastbound on the Gratigny between 42 and 57 Avenue at approximately 3:05 PM. During the traffic stop the trooper smelled an odor of marijuana from within the vehicle.” The arresting officer pulled his firearm during the stop, with Haslem then stating, “I’m a professional ball player.”
Haslem then acknowledged the presence of the firearm in the glove box, stated he was “not aware” of drugs in the vehicle and signed a consent form for a search. According to the report, after an initial search, while awaiting the presence of canine search support, Haslem attempted to retract that consent.
According to the report, “three plastic containers with marijuana inside” were uncovered, with the passenger immediately acknowledging the material as his.
A felony count, such as Haslem’s was cited for, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine and two years of license suspension. A misdemeanor charge carries a $1,000 fine and 12-month license suspension.
“By law, this is called constructive possession,” Schwartzreich said, “where the marijuana is not on anyone’s person, there are two people in the vehicle, and one of the people in the vehicle, that being the passenger, not Udonis Haslem, says, ‘Hey, this is my marijuana.’ To further bolster the veracity of that statement, inside the bag, where marijuana is found, are documents bearing the name of the passenger.
“So it’s not just one of these situations where the guy is claiming it or stepping up. Legitimately, the bag is found with the guy’s name. The guy says, ‘This is my marijuana.’ ”
Schwartzreich said he could not see the case rising to the level of vehicle forfeiture.
“They would have to have proof, in which there isn’t any, that this was Udonis Haslem’s marijuana, he knew that it was in his car, and that a felony was being committed.” Schwartzreich said. “I do not think, believe, they will be able to get this vehicle.”
Haslem was booked into a Miami-Dade County jail on four counts of drug paraphernalia and one count of possessing more than 20 grams of marijuana, said Janelle Hall, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Corrections.
At 10:30 p.m., Haslem was in the process of being released on $9,000 bond, she said.