« "States quickly switching execution drug" | Main | "Federal Judiciary Divided Over Changing Criminal Discovery Rule" »

April 23, 2011

Any broader insights or lessons from the latest Lindsay Lohan sentencing developments?

This ABC News story, headlined "Lindsay Lohan Released From Jail, Appealing Ruling," provides the latest developments in the highest profile (and lowest brow?) celebrity sentencing.  Here are the basics:

Lindsay Lohan slipped out of jail late Friday night after being released on $75,000 bail while she appeals a judge's 120-day jail sentence for violating her probation by taking a designer necklace.

In addition to jail, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner ordered Lohan to serve more than 400 hours of community service, which would include 300 hours at a women's center. "Perhaps then she might see how truly needy women who have fallen on truly hard times have to live," said Sautner.

Lohan's attorney, Shawn Holley, filed a notice of appeal before court closed, which allowed for the actress' release at 9:21 p.m. Lohan previously has been jailed three times.

Earlier on Friday, Sautner reduced Lohan's grand theft case regarding the necklace she allegedly stole on Jan. 22 to a misdemeanor.  Lohan pleaded not guilty to that misdemeanor charge.  Sautner set a trial date on the misdemeanor charge for June 3 and a pretrail date for May 11.  The misdemeanor has a potential penalty of a year in jail, whereas the original felony charge had a potential penalty of three years in jail.  In making her ruling to reduce the charges, Sautner said, "I'm going to give her an opportunity."

The decision came after Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers concluded her case against Lohan after calling four witnesses, including the owner of Kamofie and Co., the store from which Lohan allegedly stole the necklace, an employee of the store, and two police officers who handled Lohan's case.

Holley had asked Sautner to dismiss the charge altogether, saying "This is not a stealth, crafty crime." As Holley spoke, Lohan started tearing up, and a bailiff gave her tissues....

The 24-year-old actress, who turned down an earlier plea deal regarding the necklace case, had sought to get the Good Friday hearing pushed back, citing religious beliefs.  The judge apparently was not persuaded by Lohan's attempt to put off the hearing.

Lohan has denied any wrongdoing.  She has maintained that the store let her borrow the necklace and her assistant returned it to police.  She was arraigned in February on one felony grand theft charge.  Lohan has been to jail three times in the past three years for DUI, drug possession and probation violations.

April 23, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Any broader insights or lessons from the latest Lindsay Lohan sentencing developments?:


There are many, many women with lesser criminal histories, who are sitting in California prisons doing serious time. Just an observation.

Posted by: anonymous | Apr 23, 2011 11:22:42 AM

Tough call.

On the one hand, the prosecution is over-reaching, heinous, and trying to get into the papers by persecuting a celebrity.

On the other hand, if she emerges drug free, and has a spectacular comeback due to her new reliability, this is the biggest favor that can be done for her. Robert Downey Jr is found face down in a skid row alley. Goes to jail, emerges after an opportunity for his brain to be separated from addictive substances for several months. He then makes 2 Iron Man movies and a Sherlock Holmes movie, is back with his wife, and is sober for years. Prior to his extended jail term, he would celebrate graduation from rehab by meeting the dealer in the rehab parking lot.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 23, 2011 11:38:13 AM

i have to agree i think the whole thing is a waste of time and scarce money. can't imagine how many 100's of THOUSANDS all these court hearing over a couple of minor charges 3 YEARS ago have cost!

but like SC says the time might do her some good!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 23, 2011 2:19:57 PM

Agreed- it is a complete waste of resources, time and money. But then again, so are many other prosecutions of similar or lesser crimes, and those people without money or a defense, end up in prison.

She won't do any time. She's already bailed out and her sentenced time is for a misdemeanor in county jail, where due to overcrowding she'll be locked up for about a minute.

Posted by: anon | Apr 23, 2011 3:26:59 PM

Most interesting here is what is not said or is glossed over. Namely, that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is jettisoned. First by the first guilty plea and now in the probation violation hearing. True, both sides get something out of a plea bargain, but are defendants advised at the time of a plea deal that any future probation violations will not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt? In this case, Lohan is essentially convicted of the necklace theft without any jury or proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Maybe this is more interesting than Lohan.

Posted by: George | Apr 23, 2011 4:57:11 PM

From the judge: "I'm going to give her an opportunity."

I believe the young lady has already been given a bunch of "opportunities." There is no longer any serious doubt about what she does with them.

She just thinks rules are for suckers and she'll do what she pleases.

This attitude does not necessarily call for a long sentence (and she did not get, and will not serve, one). But it merits no sympathy either.

SC -- If the government takes a pass, it will be accused of going easy on celebrities. If it prosecutes, it will be accused of concerning itself with trifles. It's a no-win.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 23, 2011 8:00:03 PM

how true george probation in the u.s has become the GOTCHA method of criminal convictions where the state KNOWS IT CAN'T PROVE A CASE!

get the poor sucker to plead out to a little probation...KNOWING there is no way in hell they wil ever sucessfully complete it!

then first time they slip and the state KNOWS it's gonna happen. HAMMER THEM

most of the time giving them MORE time then they ever would have gotten in a REAL trial in front of a JURY

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 24, 2011 2:40:45 AM

California law continues to mystify me when it comes to constitutional issues related to the roles of the judiciary and the executive branch.

As I understand the article, the judge dismissed a felony charge and convicted of a misdemeanor charge on the grounds that she wanted to give the def an opportunity. I can understand a judge finding that the state had failed to prove all the elements of a felony and therefore a conviction would be entered for a misdemeanor, but by what authority can a judge in california decide the prosecutor didn't seek the right charge?

This seems just like the concept of "wobblers" in the area of the California three strike law. I just don't see how a judge has the power to decide when a crime is a felony and when it is a misdemeanor. That call is up to the legislature.

Confused in Carolina,


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Apr 24, 2011 10:25:13 AM

Meanwhile, I'm trying to do something serious and sentencing-related, and end up on Perez Hilton. http://perezhilton.com/2011-04-23-virginia-church-holds-mock-jesus-trial

Posted by: Mark Osler | Apr 24, 2011 10:59:35 AM

"the beautiful woman discount." Years ago when I was a public defender and when almost all judges were male, I was on duty and resposible for representing everyone arrested that day. I got a call that someone was arrested, went to the lockup, and saw a stunningly beautiful woman. She was charged with possession of 4 pounds of cocaine. She was so achingly pretty, that I could harldy look at her directly. But I knew that she would never serve a day; and she never did.

Posted by: anon14 | Apr 24, 2011 11:47:41 AM

well bruce i guess she's pulling it from the same place the state has been pulling most of their laws for the last couple of decades. out of her ass!


Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 24, 2011 12:11:53 PM

From an utilitarian extremist point of view, an achingly beautiful woman does not belong in stir, in a cage with fat ugly trailer park rejects.

What she was doing working as a drug mule is a mistake, perhaps from low self-esteem. She belongs married to a nice rich legitimate business guy, making him beautiful daughters. Jail would only be a last resort, to save her life from treatment resistant addiction, a la Robert Downey Jr.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 24, 2011 12:38:02 PM

Lindsay should just grow up, accept and serve her punishment for violating probation just like anyone else would. Shut up, do the time, come out a brand new person and start making great movies again. I hope she serves every minute of those 120 days too. After all the tax dollars wasted on her, what's a bit more? Hey, I'll even donate if they set up a fund to keep her in jail.

Posted by: Atlanta Roofing | Apr 24, 2011 11:07:55 PM

Bruce, since the necklace cost the store less than $950, that makes it a misdemeanor petty theft, but on appeal the government might claim the value is the sales value, not the cost to the store. If it cost more than $950 it would be a felony grand theft. Where the wobble comes in is a petty theft can wobble to a felony on a second conviction. See, for example, What You Need to Know About Theft Crimes for some more details if you are curious enough.

Posted by: George | Apr 24, 2011 11:51:43 PM

Bruce and George,

Many felonies in California can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If the Legislature sets the crime's penalty as a term in the state prison OR a term in the county jail (or a fine) it is punishable, and therefore can be charged, as either. Both the DA and the Court have to power to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor. See California Penal Code section 17(b). All such crimes are wobblers which is a not legal term but entered the mainstream of California criminal law many years ago.

George, the fact that Penal Code 666 makes a petty theft (with a specified prior conviction) punishable as a felony has nothing to do with wobblers. Wobblers are crimes punishable as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Some examples, petty theft with a prior (PC 666), criminal threats (PC 422), assault with a deadly weapon (PC245(a)(1)), battery with serious bodily injury (PC243(d)), grand theft (PC 487, 489), most drug possession (except cocaine and heroin), willful discharge of a firearm at a inhabited dwelling (PC 246), to name a few.

Posted by: David | Apr 25, 2011 12:45:01 AM

David: "George, the fact that Penal Code 666 makes a petty theft (with a specified prior conviction) punishable as a felony has nothing to do with wobblers. Wobblers are crimes punishable as either a felony or a misdemeanor."

Isn't a PC 666 offense a felony or misdemeanor at the discretion of the prosecutor? And isn't that what a wobbler is?

Posted by: George | Apr 25, 2011 2:03:13 AM

With all due respect to California, it sure seems to me that DAs and judges exercsing discretionary power to categorize certain conduct as either a felony or a misdemeanor runs afoul of the separation of powers clause, not to mention other constitutional guarantees, like equal protection, due process, eighth amendment arbitrariness, and on and on.

has this been challenged. I first became aware of wobblers at the oral argument of Ewing and Andrade. It struck me as totally bizarre.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Apr 25, 2011 11:13:22 PM


I misread your comment re: PC 666. Sorry.

FYI, if you read PC 17, it is not only at the discretion of the prosecutor.

Posted by: David | Apr 26, 2011 1:16:53 AM

David, thanks for the clarification. Evidently I was wrong and it takes more than one previous conviction for theft and it is not limited to petty theft (per the link above). And thanks for the PC 17 tip. It is worth a couple of reads.

Posted by: George | Apr 26, 2011 1:52:34 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB