Paris Hilton Arrest: Hold Off on the Jail Predictions

Already the media pundits are predicting "hard time" for Paris Hilton after last night's arrest in Las Vegas on a cocaine possession charge.

I doubt it. First off, while possession of cocaine is a class E felony in Nevada, the statute mandates probation except in certain instances, and Paris doesn't fit any of the exceptions. Nevada, like most states, also has deferred sentencing for those who are guilty of such offenses, allowing them to end up without a permanent conviction on their record.

Paris' prior conviction in CA was for alcohol-related reckless driving, a misdemeanor. She's no longer on probation. [More...]

Second, Paris has a great lawyer, David Chesnoff. The basis for the stop, a "vapor trail" sounds suspicious.

[Update: Police are refuting earlier reports that they searched Paris' purse. According to Police Sgt. John Sheahan:

Initially it was just Paris' boyfriend that got arrested, until she made a costly mistake. "While waiting in police custody, she extracted a tube of lip balm from her purse," Sheahan describes. "At that time a plastic packet of a substance believed to be cocaine fell from her purse, directly in view of Metro officers." After it was confirmed to be cocaine, Paris was arrested on one-count of a controlled substance and taken to jail. (my emphasis)
Why was she "in custody" if by that point they had decided only her boyfriend had broken the law?
Waits was busted for drug-related DUI. Paris was asked to get out of the car.
Here's another version from the police:
Police say, Paris got out of the vehicle and went for something in her purse when a container of the controlled substance fell out onto the street.
If the bindle fell out of her purse as she got out of the car, and it landed in the street, then it didn't fall out while she was "waiting in police custody." In picturing the sequence, I don't get why she would reach for lip gloss as she was alighting from the vehicle. There were crowds outside. It makes more sense that she would have put the lip gloss on in the car before she got out. (If it was anyone but Paris, I'd also doubt she was even thinking about lip gloss, let alone reaching for it. Nor does it sound like she was just trying to ditch the bindle since the cop was right next to her. Too late for that.)

But wait, now we have police version number 3, from the same sergeant. Either the reporters aren't accurately reporting his comments or he can't stick to a straight story:

Hilton asked to go into the Wynn resort for privacy, Sheahan said. “Miss Hilton pulled out a tube of lip balm,” Sheahan said. “At the same time … a bindle of cocaine in a plastic bag came out of her purse” in plain view of police in the room.
"In the room" or "in the street?" Which is it? It can't be both.

Also, I can see them asking her to get out of the car as they might need it for evidence against her boyfriend. But once she got out of the vehicle, and asked to go inside the hotel, why is she still being detained and "in custody?" Why wasn't she free to leave at that point?

If, legally she was free to leave but they didn't tell her that and instead told her she'd have to submit to questioning, and the bindle fell out inside the hotel during the period of unlawful detention, then "plain view" may not do the trick for the cops. Their presence in the room for the purpose of conducting an unlawful detention/interrogation could well lead to a finding they didn't have a right to be where they were when they made the observation.

Without the police report, it's tough to say what happened given the inconsistent news reports. Here is what the statutes say about the penalties:

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 453.336

1. A person shall not knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance, unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a prescription or order of a physician, physician assistant licensed pursuant to chapter 630 or 633 of NRS, dentist, podiatric physician, optometrist, advanced practitioner of nursing or veterinarian while acting in the course of his or her professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by the provisions of NRS 453.005 to 453.552, inclusive.

2. Except as otherwise provided in subsections 3 and 4 and in NRS 453.3363, and unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 212.160; , 453.3385; , 453.339; or 453.3395, a person who violates this section shall be punished:

(a) For the first or second offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule I, II, III or IV, for a category E felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 193.130

2. Except as otherwise provided by specific statute, for each felony committed on or after July 1, 1995:

(e) A category E felony is a felony for which a court shall sentence a convicted person to imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 4 years. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of subsection 1 of NRS 176A.100, upon sentencing a person who is found guilty of a category E felony, the court shall suspend the execution of the sentence and grant probation to the person upon such conditions as the court deems appropriate. Such conditions of probation may include, but are not limited to, requiring the person to serve a term of confinement of not more than 1 year in the county jail. In addition to any other penalty, the court may impose a fine of not more than $5,000, unless a greater penalty is authorized or required by statute.

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 176A.100

176A.100. Authority and discretion of court to suspend sentence and grant probation; persons eligible; factors considered; intensive supervision; submission of report of presentence investigation.

1. Except as otherwise provided in this section and NRS 176A.110; and 176A.120, if a person is found guilty in a district court upon verdict or plea of:

(b) A category E felony, except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, the court shall suspend the execution of the sentence imposed and grant probation to the person. The court may, as it deems advisable, decide not to suspend the execution of the sentence imposed and grant probation to the person if, at the time of sentencing, it is established that the person:

(1) Was serving a term of probation or was on parole at the time the crime was committed, whether in this state or elsewhere, for a felony conviction;

(2) Had previously had the person's probation or parole revoked, whether in this state or elsewhere, for a felony conviction;

(3) Had previously been assigned to a program of treatment and rehabilitation pursuant to NRS 453.580 and failed to successfully complete that program; or

(4) Had previously been two times convicted, whether in this state or elsewhere, of a crime that under the laws of the situs of the crime or of this state would amount to a felony.

Even if the judge had concerns about Paris, he could put her on intensive probation:

4. If the court determines that a person is otherwise eligible for probation but requires more supervision than would normally be provided to a person granted probation, the court may, in lieu of sentencing the person to a term of imprisonment, grant probation pursuant to the program of intensive supervision established pursuant to NRS 176A.440.

453.3363. Suspension of proceedings and probation of accused under certain conditions; effect of discharge and dismissal.

1. If a person who has not previously been convicted of any offense pursuant to NRS 453.011 to 453.552, inclusive, or pursuant to any statute of the United States or of any state relating to narcotic drugs, marijuana, or stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic substances tenders a plea of guilty, guilty but mentally ill, nolo contendere or similar plea to a charge pursuant to subsection 2 or 3 of NRS 453.336, NRS 453.411; or 454.351, subparagraph (1) of paragraph (a) of subsection 2 of NRS 453.3325, or is found guilty or guilty but mentally ill of one of those charges, the court, without entering a judgment of conviction and with the consent of the accused, may suspend further proceedings and place the person on probation upon terms and conditions that must include attendance and successful completion of an educational program or, in the case of a person dependent upon drugs, of a program of treatment and rehabilitation pursuant to NRS 453.580.

2. Upon violation of a term or condition, the court may enter a judgment of conviction and proceed as provided in the section pursuant to which the accused was charged. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (e) of subsection 2 of NRS 193.130, upon violation of a term or condition, the court may order the person to the custody of the Department of Corrections.

3. Upon fulfillment of the terms and conditions, the court shall discharge the accused and dismiss the proceedings against him or her. A nonpublic record of the dismissal must be transmitted to and retained by the Division of Parole and Probation of the Department of Public Safety solely for the use of the courts in determining whether, in later proceedings, the person qualifies under this section.

4. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, discharge and dismissal under this section is without adjudication of guilt and is not a conviction for purposes of this section or for purposes of employment, civil rights or any statute or regulation or license or questionnaire or for any other public or private purpose, but is a conviction for the purpose of additional penalties imposed for second or subsequent convictions or the setting of bail. Discharge and dismissal restores the person discharged, in the contemplation of the law, to the status occupied before the arrest, indictment or information.

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  • Display: Sort:
    she got arrested, that's all I need (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 02:39:54 AM EST
    remember, this is a criminal law blog. And I find the stop suspicious. She does contribute, works hard at her own company, and at self-marketing. I like her and wrote up every detail of her last cases in which I think she got a raw deal.

    You can scroll back through them here.

    I thought the stop sounded (none / 0) (#4)
    by Makarov on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 12:40:12 PM EST
    suspicious as well. When I first heard it reported on the radio (NPR, probably) they said the vehicle was pulled over for 'what appeared to officers as marijuana smoke coming out of it'.

    So now police are trained to tell the difference between marijuana smoke, cigar smoke, and cigarette smoke? The report didn't say they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle.


    a vapor trail??? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by weltec2 on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 04:45:27 PM EST
    Happy traaails to you...

    and coke just... fell out of her purse. How convenient. The only thing that smells here is the police story.

    To her credit (none / 0) (#3)
    by NYShooter on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 03:08:55 AM EST
    People believe the "dizzy" public persona she's perfected, and Paris Hilton, the person, are one and the same. Of course they're not, and as the father of a daughter about her age, I think it's great to see what a bright, talented, and ever growing young woman she's become.

    BTW, I read today that Jayne Mansfield had an IQ of 162.

    Goes to show you, "don't judge a book" and all that. lol

    If the lip gloss story is true... (none / 0) (#5)
    by magster on Sun Aug 29, 2010 at 02:34:30 PM EST
    I can't blame her.  There's nothing worse (including a felony arrest) than chapped lips.

    Not her purse? (none / 0) (#6)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Aug 30, 2010 at 01:27:00 PM EST
    According to the Associated Press, police reports from the night Paris Hilton was arrested for possession indicate that the socialite denied that she owned the purse containing a trace of cocaine. She did,
    Police pulled over a car that Hilton was riding in after officers detected the smell of marijuana emanating from the vehicle.

    After a search, police allegedly found the coke in a purse Hilton had in her possession, though Hilton maintains that the cocaine wasn't hers.

    (Hilton did, however, admit that a credit card and $1,300 in cash that were also in the purse were indeed hers.)