Lohan and Celebrity Justice

In a Los Angeles Court yesterday, actress Lindsay Lohan was found in violation of the terms of her DUI probation and sentenced to 90 days county jail and 90 days lockdown residential treatment. The violation of probation stemmed from her failure to attend meetings at her alcohol education program. Her attorney argued that she was largely in compliance and was on track to complete the program.

This begs the question; Are celebrities given special treatment? I would argue that indeed they are, but are treated more harshly now than average members of the public. I have represented many clients who have been kicked out of their alcohol programs for poor attendance only to be re-referred back to the program by the judge without any further penalty.

These cases present special problems for judges and prosecutors who are immediately thrown into the spotlight of media attention. Judges and Prosecutors are terrified at the prospect of being perceived to be lenient. Much better to be tough and punitive. If nobody is watching, they are free to be fair and reasonable. The judge in the Lohan case was eager to avoid the impression that Lohan was being afforded any special consideration, and in doing this, went too far. Remember, the prosecuting attorney was recommending 30 days county jail, a third of the eventual sentence.

This will serve as a troubling precedent as judges often follow each other in handing out the perceived usual sentence in these circumstances. As a DUI defense attorney, I certainly do not wish to be in Beverly Hills Court with a client in violation of probation any time soon.

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