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August 25, 2007

MTV coverage of whether Lohan and Richie are being treated special

With all the troubled famous 20-somethings, there too much good sentencing stuff in the entertainment world for me to ignore.  Specifically, consider this effective MTV piece about the recent sentencing fortunes of Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie.  The piece's headline highlights its themes: "Lindsay Lohan And Nicole Richie Got Off Light? Experts Disagree: California legal pros say celebs were treated just like anyone else would have been."

August 25, 2007 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

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This is not a post about celebrities. This a post about the disgrace that is Steve Cooley's standard policy illustrated by recent celebrity cases.

The article states: "[a]t the time of Lohan's arrests, the cocaine found in her possession weighed under the 0.05 gram limit for felony filing. . . . ' This is all part of the California penal code.'" California has no such limit for cocaine [see Health & Safety (H&S) section 11350(a)]; any usable amount qualifies. The limit they are referring to could only be a DA's Office policy and I wish they would stop misleading everyone about that fact. Ask yourself this question. If she was under the influence of the coke, and she now has less than 0.05 grams net weight of coke, how much did she have before she got high? You have to possess it before you use it. Do we give defendants a lesser penalty because they have now used some of the substance before driving? LA county does.

Further, 11550(a) [under the influence of a controlled substance], even though only a misdemeanor, carries a minimum 90 day penalty. In my county, if you drive under the influence of a drug, as Richie also did, we charge you with DUI and H&S 11550. Say hello to 90 days or a drug program.

Perhaps the most despicable justification for treating Lohan basically as if she had committed no crime on two separate occasions: "had Lohan injured someone during the incidents, they would have been upgraded to felony status." Yes, excellent idea, let's wait until she injures or kills a human being before we remind her that the law applies to her too. In LA County it appears they are going to wait. One more reason to avoid LA County roads because apparently this is what they do for everyone, not just celebrities.

"If you're a citizen, it doesn't sound right. But if it happens to you, you're going to want it to happen this way." So what. That's a justification for the sentence? Clearly, this is not the LA DA spokesperson talking.

The problem here is not celebrities being treated differently. The problem here seems to be LA's District Attorney's Office total lack of interest in public safety. I understand overcrowding and impacted criminal justice systems, I am a deputy DA in California, but come on. THERE IS NO DETERRENCE HERE. The prospect of 1 day in jail and yet another conviction for those who have nothing to do lose; they do not give a shit. They are going to drink, drive, use coke and drive as crazy as they want. If I did this, I lose my job, but that is the exception because I work in law enforcement. For most people there are no collateral consequences. Call in sick, do your one day in jail, back to work nobody knows, maybe not even the wife and kids.

Let's talk about jail overcrowding and cost. With the cost to arrest, book, prosecute, and jail (for even a few hours) why even bother with such a "minor" prosecution of Lohan or anyone else for that matter. Why not just let DMV suspend licenses and wait to see if anyone gets really hurt. Then throw the book at them. Really, save the money, use it in the Penal Code 23153 [DUI injury], 191.5 [reckless DUI death] or 187 [murder] prosecution. After all "had Lohan injured someone during the incidents, they would have been upgraded to felony status." All that money saved before could be spent fighting the millions these two would bring to bear in the case that "mattered."

Posted by: David | Aug 25, 2007 12:22:17 PM

David,

Is your answer then to eliminate prosecutorial discretion? Maybe, if a more specific statute applies to an offender's conduct, they must proceed under that statute or not proceed at all? I don't really understand what you are getting at here because as far as I know the DA for LA county is elected. Presumably this is what LA county voters want.

Moreover, as far as I know only two parties have access to all of the underlying facts. Whatever speculation reporters and gossip columnists make, presumably the DA office knows the value of the case.

And presumably, if this does not work as deterrence either Ms. Lohan faces more extreme mandatory minimums in the future (perhaps even for driving while suspended with a 10 day minimum?) or eventually felony DUI.

As far as possession, perhaps that is an incorrect statement of CA law (it certainly appeared to be when I read the statute from the CA code), but if so isn't it just a "wobbler" and capable of being charged as a misdemeanor or a felony? So your problem is ultimately with Mr. Cooley's discretion; while working out deals involving conduct the legislature has deemed it appropriate to charge as a misdemeanor offense, presumably he is shifting more resources to violent and exploitive offenses. I don't see that the office has done anything here indicating they are soft on DUI offenders.

Posted by: Alec | Aug 26, 2007 9:19:44 PM

Alec,

California H&S 11350(a) - possession of cocaine - is not a wobbler, there is no weight limit, and yes, my problem is with Cooley's exercise of discretion. I think the 0.05 gram DA's Office policy for a felony is a silly distinction when an offender is also under the influence of the drug.

Frankly, I think Lohan and Richie's cases, if examples of the norm for everyone in LA County, are glaring examples of the total lack of deterrent value for many types of offenders.

Finally, I have a great degree of skepticism that the LA County DA's Office will make either of these ladies eat the 10 day minimum for driving on a suspended license [VC 14601.2(a)]. As for a felony DUI in the future, there are two ways to get there: injury, including death, or 3 or more priors w/in 10 years. The driver's of LA County doubtfully want to wait until Richie and Lohan reach their 4th conviction or until they injure someone.

My point, there is no deterrence value in these sentences, so why bother.

Posted by: David | Aug 27, 2007 1:21:52 AM

This is a very nice and interesting article which tells about MTV coverage of whether Lohan and Richie are being treated special.
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lauran


california dui

Posted by: lauran | Sep 15, 2008 12:57:21 AM

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