Lindsay Lohan Swaps Probation for Jail Time

Posted July 7, 2010 in Criminal Law by Arthur Buono

Lindsay Lohan’s ongoing legal woes highlight the trade-offs with probation and alternative sentencing. As the Los Angeles Times reports, a California judge sentenced Lohan to 90 days in jail for violating her probation. The probation related to Lohan’s 2007 drunk-driving convictions.

  • Probation and other alternatives for first offenders
  • Obeying all the terms key to success
  • Probation revoked for numerous violations


Not Taking Things Seriously

In receiving probation, Lohan benefitted from two main factors behind alternative sentencing. Overcrowded jails and prisons leave no room for many new offenders. The law also recognizes that first offenders sometimes learn from their mistakes. Jail time may not be needed to teach them a lesson or protect the public.

Think of probation as a type of alternative sentencing. Other common alternatives to jail time include home confinement, community service, and treatment for substance abuse. Offenders may be outfitted with monitoring devices. Lohan wore a special bracelet that detected alcohol use.

Pretrial diversion and probation before judgment take things one step further. Many states offer these programs to postpone trial indefinitely and avoid it altogether if successfully completed. This prevents risking a conviction for the record.

But an offender must obey all the terms of the alternative to make it work. The programs also require general good behavior. Which gets us back to Lindsay. The judge gave many examples of Lohan’s probation violations. She missed weekly alcohol education classes. She failed to make a scheduled court appearance, traveling instead to the Cannes Film Festival. To make things worse, she had told the judge that someone had stolen her passport and she couldn’t travel abroad. Now she must do time in jail. Lohan also must complete a 90-day inpatient substance abuse clinic.

Probation and alternative sentencing aren’t "get out of jail free" cards. They require effort and responsibility to make them work. When they do work out, everybody wins.

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