TMZ reported the following news yesterday accompanied with video footage of Paris Hilton’s arrest:
“According to police, Paris was the passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over outside the Wynn Hotel. The driver was arrested for DUI (drug-related, not alcohol) and when cops searched Hilton, they found her in possession of a controlled substance.
Police say tests revealed the substance to be cocaine. She was arrested and released on her own recognizance. . . ” ~TMZ
Let’s start with the beginning of what happens when a defendant is arrested. Obviously with fashion and entertainment defendants, the media frenzy and spotlight becomes even more magnified.
The first is the arrest. Typically you don’t want to say much to the police. They should read you your Miranda rights and all you should be saying is, “I want my lawyer, now!”
In California in felony and misdemeanor cases, if the defendant is taken into custody, the arraignment will happen within 48 to 72 hours. If the defendant is not in jail, the arraignment may not happen for several weeks.
Your first appearance before the court is what is called an “arraignment.”
At the arraignment, the court appoints a lawyer for you if you don’t have one and you qualify for a public defender AND gives you a fair opportunity to plead to the charges i.e. guilty, not guilty, no contest. If you plead guilty or no contest, a judge can sentence you right away. Most defendants plead “no guilty” buying time to sort out their defense.
The final part of the arraignment is the court entertains arguments from the prosecutor and your defense attorney on whether to release you back into the community. Notice the article says Paris was released on her “own recognizance (O.R).” For criminal defense practitioners, the lingo used in court is ‘O.R.’ With O.R, we argue to the court that our client is not a flight risk, has roots in the community etc. Basically we paint the beautiful side of the client. In Paris’s case, she has a rap sheet and has served time. Obviously her stardom comes into play in having her released on OR. The typical defendant on cocaine charges and a long rap sheet of crimes has a difficult battle and usually remains locked up pending trial, when they can make bail, or plead out their matter for favorable terms including nojail time.
Cocaine/Controlled Substance Charge
What does it mean if you are arrested and charged with possession of a control substance?
- In lay terms it means you are in possession of a drug that is illegal or has certain limitations on where and when you have it. For example in the case of alcohol.
- What does “controlled substance” mean? Cannabis including marijuana, depressants (tranquilizers, valium, Librium), hallucinogens (LSD etc.), narcotics (heroin, opium etc.), stimulants (cocaine etc.)
- What if I was in the car, house etc. and had no idea the drug was even there?!! Can the Police charge me? Heck yea. What have they got to lose? You can fight your way out of it. Careful who you “kick it” with. Paris Hilton is obviously going to make this argument. She had no idea etc. but if you are in a vehicle where the police finds controlled substances, even if they are not yours, you can still be charged.
On what basis?
It’s a lingo we law and lawyers use, quite a lot. It goes like this “you knew or should have known” that the controlled substance was in the vehicle. There was a case I handled that involved a stolen vehicle. My client was a passenger at the back seat of the driver’s side of the vehicle. He was, nevertheless, charged with receiving stolen property, the vehicle. The prosecutor rode that “knew or should have known language.” My client prevailed but the “known or should have known” broad language is a typical trap used in the law and many times can be an uphill battle if the facts do not align in your favor.
How much time is Paris Hilton Looking at?
In California, she would be looking at a fine of $250-$1,000, 30days to 3years jail time, probation and possibly drug diversion programs to offset her probation and jail time.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, fines could be up to 500,000. She could do time anywhere from 2 to 15 years if the cocaine found was less than 28g. If more than 28g, then she would be looking at a minimum of 3 years to a life sentence. Diversion programs in Nevada are totally up to the court’s discretion. Also probation on drug offenses are not available.
NOTE: Depending on the state, the amount of time varies. Hire a good criminal defense attorney who can fight for you.
Let’s see how Paris’s case unfolds.