Paris Hilton’s Unfair Sentence Starting To Get Noticed

A famed NYC civil rights attorney says Paris Hilton’s 45-day jail sentence may be due more to her notoriety than standards of fairness.

Despite the obvious pleasure some gossipmongers are taking in Paris Hilton¹s 45-day jail sentence, the young heiress may, as her lawyer suggests, have become a victim of the same publicity machine she helped create.

“It’s clear she was selectively prosecuted because of who she is,” Hilton’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, told reporters outside the Los Angeles courthouse last week, promising to appeal her sentence.

The success of that appeal, and the fairness of the sentence in the first place, depends on what other drivers in Los Angeles would face if they were caught violating probation by driving on a suspended license, like Paris did.

“Equal protection under the law means that the legal system should treat everyone the same,” said Norman Siegel, a civil rights attorney in New York.

“And I would say that if 45 days is the usual penalty, then the people of LA should be trying to change that. It’s what I would call a disproportionate penalty.”

Hilton’s license was suspended from Nov. 30 to March 31 after she pleaded no contest to a Sept. 7 reckless driving charge in which she failed a sobriety test and had a blood-alcohol level of .08. Last week’s jail sentence came after she was caught driving three times on the suspended license.

A 45-day sentence is not unusual for someone who has a DUI conviction and had been pulled over so many times since, said Edward Welbourn, a Southern California criminal defense lawyer.

What is unusual is for a judge to order the defendant to serve the entire sentence, as Hilton was, with no chance for early release.

“It’s clear the judge wants to send a message to her and others like her,” Welbourne said. “She was trying to push the envelope, and now the court is pushing back.”

He said any appeal would not likely be successful, since Hilton’s lawyer would have to prove the court was “abusing its discretion.”

That’s hard to prove, he said, since Hilton, 26, has already been caught driving drunk.

Posted: May 6th, 2007
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