Lindsay Lohan: 'The Mere Arrest Isn't a Violation of Her Probation,' Says Legal Expert
Legal woes continue to plague Lindsay Lohan.
The Liz & Dick star has been charged with a total of four misdemeanors on Thursday. Lohan was arrested for third-degree assault after an alleged altercation with a woman at a nightclub in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Lohan was taken into custody after she punched the fellow female patron — who has been identified as Tiffany Eve Mitchell, 28, of West Palm Beach, Fla. — at club Avenue, according to police.
Right on the heels of her late-night run-in with the law, the actress racked up three more charges in connection to her June car crash on Pacific Coast Highway in California. The Santa Monica, City Attorney filed a case on Thursday, accusing Lohan of lying to law enforcement officials about being behind the wheel of her Porsche at the time of accident. She faces three separate charges: giving false information to a police officer, obstructing or resisting a police officer in the performance of his duty and reckless driving.
The criminal incidents could spiral into a more serious legal mess for Lohan. The actress is currently serving an informal probation — which lasts until May 24, 2014 — stemming from a conviction for stealing a $2,500 necklace from an L.A.-area jeweler in 2011. But Lohan's probation status could be called into question in light of these recent charges.
"The judge can choose to revoke probation since she has been arrested," New York University Law School professor Kim Taylor-Thompson told Celebuzz. "Some judges wait to see if she will be convicted of the new arrest; others will simply determine if there is probable cause — reason to believe — that she committed the misdemeanor assault."
"If the judge concludes that there is probable cause, then the judge can opt to revoke her probation," Taylor-Thompson explained, which could lead to Lohan serving her suspended sentence, which could be up to 245 days in jail. "Or the judge could sentence her to something less than that, or could return her to probation with other conditions, or could terminate probation and let her go. The judge typically has a lot of discretion in such cases."
But the case in Santa Monica — which is expected to be filed Thursday — may be a different story. "If it was an L.A. judge who wanted to be really aggressive...the district attorney might file a petition for a violation of informal probation and then try to prove the underlying facts," Barton said. "[But] that's generally not what would happen."
It's unlikely, though, that any action will be taken on Lohan's probation ahead of any guilty verdict. "It would be unusual for the D.A. to try to violate the probation before there is a conviction in the new case. It would be really exceptional to say, 'We're not going to get a conviction or we're going to try to prove the truth of these facts in violation of probation proceeding.'"
And as of now, it's unclear how much ammunition there is against Lohan in the assault case. "We don't know what the universe of evidence is," Barton added. "We don't know if she was drinking, and I think alcohol contributing to a lot of [her past] problems. You assume she was drinking, but who knows. You have the woman's account, you have any statements by Lindsay, you have statements by other people in the nightclub, you have physical evidence, there may be video."
"You also have the possibility that this person is just trying to shake Lindsay down," Barton continued. "That Lindsay, like Michael Jackson, is a perfect person to falsely accuse because it's going to be hard to defend themselves because everybody thinks they're the type of person who would do that. And they have a lot of money and you may be able to shake down a settlement and get the thing dismissed...and get your 15 minutes of fame."
It's too soon to predict Lohan's fate — "The fact that she was arrested really doesn't tell us anything," Barton said. But a judge could seize these charges as a chance to finally bring down the gavel on the oft-embattled star. "I think there's a lot of people who would like to communicate [to Lohan], 'You've exhausted our patience, you're at the end of the line, you've gone a step too for,'" Barton continued. "Whenever you're a celebrity — an actor, an actress, a politician, a judge — you're a trophy. And everybody wants to say, 'We treat everybody the same so we're going to treat you really bad.'... I think the D.A. and the court would be very happy to punish her on any pre-text they have."