Illinois DUI Charges Filed Against Illini Basketball Player Jamar Smith

By Mary Ann

University of Illinois sophomore shooting guard Jamar Smith was charged with DUI and leaving the scene of accident earlier today for his role in a crash last week which he allegedly believed killed teammate and freshman Illini center Brian Carlwell. Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said Smith had a BAC level of .176, more than twice the legal limit under Illinois DUI law, following last Monday night’s crash.

Smith was driving a 1996 Lexus with Carlwell in his passenger seat on February 12th when he crashed into a tree in heavy snow. Smith then drove the car back to his apartment complex a mile away and was seen leaving the smashed vehicle with Carlwell still inside. Concerned onlookers noticed the smashed vehicle with Carwell inside and called 9-1-1. Carlwell was taken to an Urbana hospital, where he spent four days with a serious concussion. Smith was later taken to the hospital by unidentified coaches and University of Illinois police, treated for a minor concussion and released early the next morning.  

According to Rietz’s description of University police reports, Smith and Carlwell were drinking tequila and beer at the apartment complex on the night of the incident before leaving around 11 p.m. Rietz said that it appears Smith though Carlwell had died in the accident and was extremely distraught. Smith’s Illinois DUI attorneyMark Lipton, had no comment on Tuesday. Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber did not release a statement as well.

Smith’s charges could carry some very serious DUI penalties if convicted. Rietz said that aggravated driving under the influence is a Class 4 felony carrying a sentence of up to 12 years in prison, while leaving the scene is a Class 3 felony with a possible sentence of up to five years in prison. She did add that a person convicted of either felony could be placed on probation.

Smith left the basketball team last week for the remainder of the season. Weber said that Carlwell, who sat on the Illinois bench during Sunday’s win against Northwestern at Assembly Hall, may return in the postseason. The Jamar Smith DUI is not the first time that an Illinois basketball player has been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving this season. Senior guard Rich McBride was arrested for an Illinois DUI in September and later charged. McBride has not yet entered a plea in his case, which is scheduled for a hearing on March 1st. Weber suspended McBride six games for the arrest.