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Lindsay Lohan’s Sentence – Unusally Harsh or Business as Usual?

With the latest starlet in trouble with the law being sentenced to jail time, many people are misinformed as to the possible sentences given in DUI cases.  Some think she’s getting off easy, others too harsh.  Below is a basic primer regarding the possible sentences when dealing with a DUI case in California.  Please note, however, that each case, prosecuting attorney, judge, and defendant is different and plea offers and sentences differ from case to case.

A first time DUI offense carries penalties of 96 hours to 6 months in jail and a fine of $390.00 to $1,000.00 plus penalty assessments and fees (which can triple the fine).  The DMV usually imposes a 6 month license suspension.

A second DUI within 10 years of the first carries a jail term of 90 days to 1 year in jail and a $390.00 to $1,000.00 fine plus penalty assessments and fees (which, again, can triple the fine).  The DMV will impose a 2 year license suspension.

Reckless driving caries 5 to 90 days in jail or $145.00 to $1000.00 fine or both.

In Lindsay’s case (and when a defendant hires an attorney to handle their case), she entered into a plea agreement and in exchange for her plea (and avoiding trial), was ordered to attend alcohol classes.  It is typical when a plea agreement is reached that the above sentences are adjusted to reflect the same.   Probation is usually ordered and the jail time is suspended in some cases.  The Court decides what conditions to apply and, if the defendant complies completely (not substantially as it seems that Lindsay was coached to say again and again), then the terms of the probation are deemed met and, if jail time was suspended at the outset, it is then usually completely waived.

All in all a 90 day sentence, of which, according to all accounts, she will serve about 25%, is not harsh, it is not outrageous or unfair.  It is what happens when you do not do exactly what the Court orders, when and how it orders you to do it.  The system did not “fail” Lindsay, as her father stated, Lindsay failed herself.  Defendants do this often and believe that the Judges will just shrug and say, “Good try” when they explain why they did not fulfill their obligations to the Court, but this is not the case.  There are statutory requirements that must be met and, generally, when a judge orders a defendant or party to do something, he or she expects their order to be followed to the letter – it is not open to interpretation.

So, if you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, a word to the wise is: hire attorney to help you navigate these perilous waters and listen to your attorney.  Do as they say and do as the court says.  Otherwise you too may find yourself in the same situation as Lindsay did this week.