Walking the streets of Los Angeles is becoming more and more hazardous, given the amount of drunken celebrities on our roads. This past weekend we became aware that Lindsay Lohan was arrested in Los Angeles for hit and run, and driving while under the influence of alcohol. It also appears that the police located a white powdery substance believed to be cocaine either within Ms. Lohan's vehicle or personal possession.
The preliminary information gathered from the police revealed that Ms. Lohan had two passengers in the car at the time she crashed into a curb and some shrubbery, causing injury to herself and her vehicle. Ms. Lohan then fled the scene of the accident without notifying the police. She was later located at a nearby hospital by the police who observed she was exhibiting signs of alcohol influence.
Apparently this was the third car accident for Ms. Lohan within two years. Ms. Lohan, who has been in and out of a rehab center for alcohol abuse, is obviously a dangerous driver.
From the prosecutor's point of view, Ms. Lohan should be sentenced to a significant amount of jail time for this offense, possibly six months. Any defense attorney in Los Angeles will tell you that the District Attorney's Office and the Courts do not treat cases like this lightly. The aggravating factors involved with this case include: 1) Ms. Lohan fled the scene of an accident; 2) There were two passengers within her vehicle who could have been injured; 3) Ms. Lohan has a history of bad driving; and 4) She caused injuries to herself.
In California, first time DUI offenders are sentenced to attend a DUI class, pay approximately $1,100 of fines, and placed on three years summary probation. Hit and run offenders who have caused injuries, on the other hand, can be charged with a felony, and usually receive stiff prison or jail time, depending upon the seriousness of the injuries.
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles courts tend to coddle our celebrities, so I am not expecting Ms. Lohan to be sentenced similar to what an ordinary citizen would receive under similar circumstances. In my opinion, we are not doing Ms. Lohan or the public any favors by treating this crime lightly. There is no better way to catch a person's attention than to sentence him or her to a healthy dose of jail time.
Ms. Lohan is also a huge role model for thousands of would be actresses. I believe we send the wrong message to our youth when we treat celebrities as royalty, as if they are above the law. The impression we do not want our youth to have is that law enforcement gives these people special treatment because being drunk and out of control are essential ingredients to success.
In cases like this numerous commentators discuss the stress of the actress and the demands of her jobs as an excuse for her behavior. I agree that celebrities do suffer from a lot of stress. However, in no way can they be excused for drunk driving. Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, more than most people, can afford a private driver, call a cab, or call upon a friend to drive them home.
From the defense point of view, there may be a "no drive" defense, given that the police did not observe Ms. Lohan driving and we know there were two other people in her car, who could claim to have been driving. However, as I tell my clients who face similar charges, we will not know what defenses, if any, are available until we see the police reports. In this case, the passengers may have told the police that Ms. Lohan was driving, and it appears there may have been a photographer that places her behind the wheel.
In the meantime, Ms. Lohan's attorneys have wisely placed her into the Promises Residential Treatment Center in Malibu, Caliornia with the hope they can convinve the judge she has finally cleaned up her act.
Written by Donald P. Schweitzer