Paris v. Lindsay: Similar Crimes, Different Sentences
By John Mitchell Posted Jul 8th 2010 08:00AM
On Tuesday, Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a 90-day inpatient rehabilitation program. The actress will likely serve approximately 23 days behind bars because, according to Los Angeles Sheriff's Department spokesperson Steve Whitmore, female inmates in custody for nonviolent crimes generally serve about 25 percent of their sentence. Few would argue that Lohan doesn't deserve the jail time; after all, any other person in her situation would have been sentenced to the same.
What's more interesting here is the required stint in rehab. This addition to Lohan's sentence is not especially notable because the actress was hit with it, but rather because others in the exact same situation have not been.
Consider Paris Hilton, who in September 2006 was arrested for driving under the influence. The following January the heiress pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 36 months probation and fines. Not long after her sentencing, Hilton was pulled over and found to have been driving on a suspended license. She was pulled over a second time in late February 2007, this time for speeding, while her license was still under suspension.
These two offenses, combined with Hilton's failure to enroll in required alcohol education classes, constituted two separate violations of her probation, and she was sentenced to 45 days in jail. Hilton eventually served 23 days of her jail term.
Perhaps more relevant to the Lohan case, however, are the precedents set by Hilton's 'Simple Life' co-star Nicole Richie.
In February 2003, Richie was arrested in Malibu for possession of heroin and driving with a suspended license. The socialite was arrested again in late 2006 for driving under the influence when California Highway Patrol were called to the Burbank area for a report of a black Mercedes-Benz SUV driving in the wrong direction on the freeway. At the time, Richie admitted to being under the influence of marijuana and Vicodin.
Richie was sentenced to four days in jail in July 2007, though she served only 82 minutes of her sentence. She was also ordered to complete an 18-month driver education course, and recently saw her probation extended one year to March 2011 so she could make up classes missed while caring for her two young children. Alcohol educators have had nothing but praise for the decidedly reformed star, who is now more of a fashion designer than a tabloid fixture.
Lindsay in Court
Lindsay Lohan reacts to a judges sentence at the Beverly Hills Courthouse on July 6, 2010 in Los Angeles. More Photos >>
Like Lohan, Richie has voluntarily checked into rehab for substance abuse issues in the past. However, Richie, despite the direct connection to drugs in both her arrests, was never mandated to complete rehab, so it seems odd that Lohan would be slapped with such an aggressive term of rehabilitation when Richie wasn't. Sure, cocaine was found on the actress during her 2007 DUI arrest, but she has not been charged with any drug-related offenses since and has already spent time in rehab related to her 2007 arrests.
While many suspect the actress of continued use, no one -- including the legal system -- can prove that she is using. Lohan has proven herself to be completely clean and sober since at least late May of this year, when Judge Marsha Revel ordered the actress to wear an alcohol-monitoring SCRAM device and submit to weekly random drug testing. And by all accounts, if she were as addicted as some have claimed, it seems strange that she would have been able to quit so abruptly; addictions are defined by how difficult they are to end, and the physical consequences of going cold turkey can cause very observable health problems.
So, why is Lohan being sentenced to rehab when she has shown the court that she is no longer using drugs? Of course, the court is privy to things the media is not, but consider that the second her SCRAM went off (in an apparent misread), it was a news alert, and that had she failed a drug test, she would have been immediately taken to jail. Right now, Lindsay is clean.
Lohan violated her probation and now she has to deal with the consequences of her DUI arrests. That's fair, and it's how the system works. But it's hard to look at the facts of the case and the treatment others have received and not wonder if Lindsay Lohan is also being punished for being on the wrong side of a tabloid narrative that portrays her as a drug-abusing nightmare -- despite very real evidence to the contrary.
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