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August 28, 2010

Paris Hilton perhaps facing hard time after arrest in Nevada for cocaine possession

Thanks to Paris Hilton, we now have a party girl successor to Lindsay Lohan in another criminal justice tangle to follow on this blog.  Here are the details via this new CBS News story

Celebrity heiress Paris Hilton was arrested Friday night and booked into the Clark County Detention Center for possession of a controlled substance, described by Las Vegas Metro Police as cocaine.  CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom says a conviciton would probably mean more time behind bars for Hilton.

She was a passenger in a car when Metro conducted a traffic stop around 11:30 p.m. Friday in front of the Wynn Hotel and Casino on the famed Las Vegas Strip, according to Officer Marcus Martin, public information officer, who spoke with CBS affiliate KLAS-TV.

During the course of the traffic stop, police say, they conducted a search and found an undisclosed amount of cocaine in Hilton's purse.  An officer indicated to KLAS that a possible odor of marijuana was initially detected, requiring further interaction with police.

Hilton was charged with possession of a controlled substance.  A clerk at the Clark County Detention Center indicated early Saturday morning that Hilton "had been booked and released." Further details were not available from the jail....

Hilton was arrested this summer after the Brazil-Netherlands World Cup match in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on suspicion of possession of marijuana.  The case was then dropped at a midnight court hearing.

Hilton also pleaded no contest in 2007 to alcohol-related reckless driving and was sentenced to 45 days in jail.  After spending about 23 days in jail, Hilton told U.S. television host Larry King that the experience caused her to re-evaluate the role partying played in her life.  She said she wanted "to help raise money for kids and for breast cancer and multiple sclerosis."

Lisa Bloom told "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Chris Wragge she thinks Hilton is "probably" staring at more jail time if she's convicted.  "In Nevada," Bloom explained, "the sentence for a conviction of a Schedule 2 narcotic, which is what cocaine is, is probation-to-four years if it's a relatively small amount.  If it's a larger amount, four grams or more, it could be up to 20 years in state prison.  Assuming it's a small amount, I don't think she would get probation this time. ... She has a prior conviction in California.  We remember the reckless endangerment charge. And she violated her probation twice in California.  So, if she's convicted, I expect her to do some time on this."

"Nevada is a cvery tough law and order state, notwithstanding Las Vegas' reputation.  Judges are very tough there on drug crimes," Bloom added.... Not only that, said Bloom, but, "Judges do not want to appear soft on a celebrity. We saw that with Lindsay Lohan going to jail, and now we're gonna see that with Paris Hilton (if she's convicted)."

August 28, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I wonder how much taxpayers will end up paying to prosecute this heinous crime.

Posted by: DanF | Aug 28, 2010 2:30:45 PM

Dan F --

It will be easy to tax the costs of the prosecution against the super rich Ms. Hilton, and for once, the government should have no trouble actually making the defendant pay up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2010 4:05:33 PM

Perhaps Bill Otis will feel more relaxed now since Paris Hilton will not burden taxpayers with the cost of public defenders.

Posted by: . | Aug 28, 2010 5:03:50 PM

Yup, people who can pay their own bills ought to.

Something wrong with that?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2010 5:31:55 PM

This has nothing to do with the main post. But I am just doing some research on the other side of the Atlantic on State sentencing commissions, and wonder if somebody could give me a steer on the situation in New Jersey. I notice that its website seems to have gone dead after 2007. Has it been abolished?

Posted by: Tom | Aug 28, 2010 5:45:43 PM

Mr. Otis, afaik Ms. Hilton doesn't pay taxes in NV or Vegas. Or are you saying that in NV defendants that are found guilty are billed the cost of the prosecution and incarceration? Can't say I would see anything wrong with that, I'm just not aware that that's the case.

Posted by: DanF | Aug 28, 2010 5:52:08 PM

Dan F --

The fine can be raised to include the costs of prosecution, or she can separately, but also as part of the sentence, or as a condition of probation, be ordered to pay them.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2010 6:37:42 PM

She could be prosecuted by either Nevada or the Federal courts. In Iowa that decision is made by the county and federal prosecutors and if the federal prosecutor wants the case they usually get it.

The prosecution of high profile cases can generate lots of extra expenses so from the point of view of Nevada taxpayers it would be best if the feds get the case.

Posted by: John Neff | Aug 28, 2010 7:41:11 PM

Mr. Otis - interesting, I didn't know that. Please clarify though, are you saying this "can be done" or "is regularly done"? Even though the libertarian in me as against the War on (the Users of Some) Drugs on principle grounds (it's not gov't job to regulate behavior, but rather to protect rights), the fiscal conservative in me just sees it as a massive waste of money. If those convicted "are regularly" fined to cover the cost of their prosecution and incarceration that would certainly reduce the hit to the taxpayers. The more I think about it, though, this seems not very feasible. Sure, Ms. Hilton could cover the bill, but some homeless dude caught with a couple crack rocks or a college kid caught with a few joints most likely couldn't...

Has anyone here ever seen an attempt to estimate the cost of prosecuting the average, low-level possession charge? A tally of the hours the LEO's put in making the arrest, filling out paperwork and making court appearances, the hours the prosecutors and their staff put in building the case, the hours the judge and courthouse staff dedicate to hearing the case, the lost productivity incurred by the jury members, etc., etc... would certainly be interesting so see.

Posted by: DanF | Aug 29, 2010 11:07:44 AM

Dan F --

1. It can be done, that's for sure. I don't know if it's regularly done. I haven't been a prosecutor for ten years, and I suspect it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Even if it's done only rarely, it could surely be done here.

2. "...it's not gov't job to regulate behavior, but rather to protect rights."

Protecting rights very often, if not nearly always, entails regulating behavior. My right to drive to Grandma's house without getting killed depends, in part, on regulating the behavior of the guy driving the oncoming car who is blasted on coke.

Sooner of later, Ms. Hilton is going to seriously injure or kill someone, as will Ms. Lohan.

3. "Sure, Ms. Hilton could cover the bill, but [not] some homeless dude caught with a couple crack rocks..."

Might I ask you to consider the possibility that there is a relationship between his being homeless and his consumption of crack?

4. It costs money to do cases, sure. If you want to save the expense of prosecuting cocaine cases by legalizing it, have at it. But until the law is changed, neither Ms. Hilton nor anyone else gets to disregard it with impunity.

I disagree with almost all of Obama's breathtaking welfare state expansion and with the increased taxes that will accompany it. Does that mean I have a right to cheat on them? My taxes are less than a drop in the bucket, so who would I be hurting, really?

By the way, while it costs money to do drug cases, it also costs money to remedy the damage to lives done by out-of-control drug use, of which there is certain to be more with legalization.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 29, 2010 2:53:30 PM

Does Paris Hilton even have a driver's license? she was a passenger in the car in this instance, and i really doubt she bothers to drive herself around when she's loaded (or any other time). not that that absolves her, but i doubt she is likely to seriously injure or kill anyone on the road any time soon.

Posted by: A reader | Aug 29, 2010 4:55:49 PM

A reader --

With all respect, "...any time soon" is cold comfort, given the stakes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 29, 2010 6:28:41 PM

Sooner of later, Ms. Hilton is going to seriously injure or kill someone, as will Ms. Lohan.

The beauty of a prediction like this is that you have to wait 30 to 50 years to see if it comes true. Well done, Mr. Otis.

Posted by: SRS | Aug 30, 2010 11:37:57 AM

I take it that you would say the same about the predictions, seen here all the time, that sooner or later the death penalty will be outlawed and sooner or later drugs of various sorts will be legalized.

I don't recall your chiming in on those. Where was that?

P.S. If you want Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan driving around your neighborhood smashed on drugs, go for it. But play it safe and stay inside.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 30, 2010 12:13:51 PM

Sorry, I obviously don't follow this blog as religiously as you do and thus have missed countless opportunities to "chime in" on various predictions.

For the record, I don't believe the death penalty will be outlawed any time soon and while marijuana will probably be decriminalized to some extent in some states, I also don't foresee any large-scale drug legalization in this country in the near future.

What any of that has to do with your prediction about the potential body count of Misses Hilton and Lohan is beyond me.

Posted by: SRS | Aug 30, 2010 12:36:19 PM

SRS --

Do you know the definition of "prediction?"

I repeat: If you want Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan driving around your neighborhood smashed on drugs, go for it. But play it safe and stay inside.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 30, 2010 1:21:41 PM

I'm so sad it was powder cocaine instead of crack.

Posted by: NickS - student | Aug 30, 2010 1:24:04 PM

Bill -

Yes, I know the definition of "prediction". Do you know the definition of "pedantic"?

And since I am unacquainted with either Paris or Lindsay, I'm afraid I'm unable to "go for it" and assist them in any way in driving around my neighborhood "smashed on drugs," so I won't be able to take you up on that. Sorry.

Posted by: SRS | Aug 30, 2010 1:57:50 PM

SRS --

Since you know the definition of "prediction," you know that it doesn't come with a guarantee of the coming about of the thing predicted. So what's all the fuss about? Seems to me you were getting quite fussy about not very much at all.

The fact of the matter is that people who drive around drugged are more likely, other things being equal, to have a serious accident than people who drive around NOT drugged. Are you disputing that?

Be that as it may, you are well advised not to assist these young ladies in not driving around your neighborhood smashed on drugs.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 30, 2010 2:29:19 PM

Correction: You are well advised not to assist these young ladies in driving around your neighborhood.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 30, 2010 2:31:51 PM

Mr. Otis -- "Protecting rights very often, if not nearly always, entails regulating behavior. My right to drive to Grandma's house without getting killed depends, in part, on regulating the behavior of the guy driving the oncoming car who is blasted on coke."

Laws that make actions that directly violate the rights of another, or have a high potential to do so, "protect rights" as I put it. Driving while intoxicated (on alcohol as well, I'd like to remind you) falls into this category because there is a very high potential to directly violate the rights of another. What I consider "regulating behavior" is laws that makes victimless actions illegal, such as the felony possession charge Ms. Hilton is facing.

Posted by: DanF | Aug 31, 2010 6:06:04 PM

Dan F. --

My point was to note that it's a false dichotomy to say, as you did, "...it's not gov't job to regulate behavior, BUT RATHER to protect rights." (emphasis added)

The regulation of behavior, whether it's the prohibition on drunk or drugged driving, is often directly linked to the protection of rights, as you now correctly say. Thus it's mistaken blanketly to maintain that the government should not regulate behavior. If someone else's behavior impinges on my rights, or even, as you note, has a realistic prospect of impinging on them, the government is well advised to be regulating it.

There are other circumstances in which, I would argue, the government may properly impose criminal sanctions even when another person's rights are not involved. Your puppy is your property, not mine and not anyone else's. But if you savagely torture it for no purpose other than your own sick amusement, most people would agree the state has a right to impose criminal sanctions on you.

Partygirl Paris Hilton knows full well that possession of cocaine is illegal. If the law making it illegal is wrong, she is welcome to start a campaign to change it. Until that campaign succeeds, however, she does not get to make her own rules.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 31, 2010 6:48:13 PM

Paris has not learned the lesson of famous rappers and athletes: you generously compensate a trusted associate to physically carry your contraband and, if push comes to shove, to claim exclusive ownership of it. Though, to be rational about it, a conviction will not damage Paris's earning power the way it could for a professional athlete (who agrees in advance, contractually, to put his income in jeopardy in the event of such an, um, event).

Posted by: Donald | Aug 31, 2010 7:09:16 PM

Mr. Otis - We're getting off topic. I was simply stating my belief that, as a general rule, behavior which does not violate the rights of another is not a "crime" in the Natural sense. Pick apart my wording all you want. In my basic understanding of things there are laws that legitimately "protect rights" and there are laws that simply "regulate behavior". That's not a legal distinction, I know. I'm not a lawyer, just a citizen. If there's a victim, or a potential victim, then by all means, regulate that behavior. But if there's no victim, if no one's rights have or can be violated by a given action, then gov't has no business regulating that behavior.

And yes, the animal cruelty issue certainly throws me a curve ball here. I'm conflicted on that issue, to tell you the truth. I'm a dog owner and a libertarian. All I know is that I don't consider my dogs property, they're family. Let's save that debate for another thread... :)

Posted by: DanF | Aug 31, 2010 8:02:12 PM

DanF --

Fair enough. I am something of a failed libertarian. I am still more than a little suspicious of the gargantuan welfare state that now lies atop the economy, and the even more gargantuan nanny state that lies atop the culture. I am more willing to accommodate traditional government functions such as law enforcement.

I have a basset at home. But he is not part of my family; I am part of his.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 31, 2010 8:33:22 PM

Mr. Otis - If you're implying that being "willing to accommodate traditional government functions such as law enforcement" is somehow un-libertarian, it's not. Securing the rights of its citizens is the *primary* role of gov't.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, ... "

How else is gov't to secure our rights except by enforcing a code of laws and providing for strong national defense? Those are legitimate, constitutionally supported roles of the federal gov't. Libertarians just want to see the federal gov't stop there and leave the rest to the states. Supporting the role of law enforcement, however, doesn't mean libertarians agree with every law, just as our support of a strong national defense doesn't mean we support undeclared wars.

Posted by: DanF | Aug 31, 2010 10:02:23 PM

by the way, Mr. Otis...

"I have a basset at home. But he is not part of my family; I am part of his."

Ha ha, I can so relate... My boys are some stubborn sob's, but luckily they're shepherd mixes and are quite trainable. They're not stubborn like a basset though. Those little bastards think just 'cause they've got midget legs they can get away with anything!

Posted by: DanF | Aug 31, 2010 10:12:41 PM

If Oj got. Convicted pretty sure Paris will too.. just saying

Posted by: Anne | Dec 22, 2010 2:01:04 AM

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