Is Paris Hilton really going to jail next month?
With access to the best legal minds money can buy and a penchant, almost a talent, for sidestepping the consequences of her actions (remember the sex tape?), it's not entirely clear that America will get to indulge in the delicious, coast-to-coast schadenfraude that could spring from tabloid pictures of America's favorite "heir-head'' in an orange prison jumpsuit.
ABC News' Law & Justice Unit talked to a group of California defense attorneys, who detailed a series of legal maneuvers that might -- just might -- keep Paris in her makeup and Manolos for the summer.
Hilton was sentenced to 45 days in jail last week, after her second probation violation on an alcohol-related driving charge. Her defense that she'd been misled by her publicist into believing her license was valid was rejected out of hand by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer, who made a point to specify that Hilton would not be allowed any work furlough programs or any alternative "pay to stay" jails.
As news of the sentence spread, Hollywood predictably gasped.
The first casualty was the celebrity's long-suffering publicist Eliot Mintz, who was reportedly fired by Hilton over the weekend.
"To the extent that I have miscommunicated information I received from her attorneys, I am deeply and profoundly sorry,'' Mintz said in a statement. "I told her I assume personal responsibility for my part in this matter. Due to this misunderstanding, I am no longer representing Paris. For the record, I have nothing but love and respect for Paris and her family. …"
Hilton still retains some legal options, though. She can appeal Sauer's ruling to the appellate division of the Superior Court, and she would be entitled to bail pending the appeal. That process could take up to a year, defense attorneys said.
As noted defense attorney Dana Cole told ABC News, Sauer is the longest-sitting judge on the Los Angeles Superior Court. "He could retire by the time this gets through the appeals process,'' Cole said.
An appeal would be tough to win, though, because her attorneys would have to show that Sauer abused his discretion in handing down the sentence. Before the sentencing, Hilton had been charged with DUI, driving under the influence, though that charge was plea-bargained down -- and she violated her probation twice. As former public defender Stan Goldman told ABC News, the sentence Sauer handed down was "harsh … but in the ballpark'' of what other similarly charged defendants could expect in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Other lawyers thought the sentence was more than harsh.
"She got the short end of celebrity,'' said criminal defense attorney Darren Kavinoky. He thought her attorneys should have had her do some pre-emptive publicity work, like public service announcements about the dangers of drunk driving "instead of offering up all the excuses, which seemed to backfire.'' Kavinoky said Hilton would almost surely do jail time, though he predicted her stay would be shorter than 45 days.
In addition to literally pleading ignorance in court, Hilton also test drove another defense in an interview with Harper's Bazaar before the sentencing last week.
"I think I get in more trouble because of who I am," she told the magazine. "The cops do it all the time. They'll just pull me over to hit on me. … It's really annoying. They're [the cops] like, 'What's your phone number? Want to go out to dinner?'"
"It didn't help that she was Paris Hilton,'' said Laurie Levenson, a professor of criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "Most defendants would have gotten a slap on the wrist.'' Levenson agreed that Hilton would likely do some of the 45 days, but not the full sentence.
Another tactic the Hilton legal team could employ would be to try to undo the original charge. During her appeal, she could file a motion to withdraw her plea bargain on the original DUI charge, which she pleaded down to "alcohol-related reckless driving.''
By attacking the underlying charge, Hilton may succeed down the road in gaining leniency on the probation violation charge, the infraction at the root of her jail sentence.