BALTIMORE -- A sheriff in Richland County, S.C., is investigating a photo of Michael Phelps' allegedly use using drugs.
A picture of the 23-year-old gold medal winning swimmer using what appeared to be a marijuana pipe was plastered on the cover of tabloids and featured on every TV station.
WBAL-TV 11 News asked a University of Maryland law professor to weigh in on the case and whether Phelps could be facing charges.
"The fact that this is the world's greatest athlete means that nothing is normal, nothing is ordinary, so sure it's possible," professor Andrew Levy said. The professor said that he feels that Sheriff Leon Lott needs to be sure to press charges against Phelps for the right reasons.
"I think this is probably a sheriff who runs for election and sees a good opportunity to get his name in the paper and he's certainly done that hasn't he?" Levy said.
Lott has made it clear that his department is searching for more evidence.
"If we can prove it, we will charge him. And we're looking into it. I just don't think you can have something like this done and publicized and say, 'I’m sorry,' and we're supposed to forget about it. He broke the law. And if we can prove he was smoking marijuana in Richland County, then he can be charged," Lott said.
The picture was taken at a University of South Carolina house party.
Levy analyzed the case from both the defense and the prosecutions perspectives. For the defense, it all comes down to proof.
"Prove it, go ahead prove it, prove what's in the pipe. It can't be done from the photograph alone," Levy said.
For prosecutors, Levy said they’ll need more physical evidence. Without that, they’ll need a witness to authenticate the story.
"Almost certainly the prosecution would need to have someone else who had been there," Levy said. "People are convicted in this country everyday of the crime of murder on the strength of a single witness’s testimony."
Under South Carolina law, possession of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor and comes with a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
I AM SORRY BUT THE KID IS 23 YEARS OLD AND PROBABLY EXPERIMENTING A LITTLE... GET OFF HIS BACK... DIDN'T A LOT OF THESE CRITICS GROW UP IN THE 60'S AND 70'S... GIVE ME A BREAK... FOCUS ON OTHER THINGS, LIKE THE ECONOMY AND HOW AMERICANS ARE KILLING THEMSELVES CAUSE THEY CANNOT SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES... NOT THE FACT THAT A 23 YEAR OLD YOUNG MAN SMOKED A LITTLE WEED! LOSERS!
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