Paris Hilton's Not-So-Simple Legal Ride

Paris Hilton's high-profile journey through the legal system needs a road map.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 9:41 AM

June 8, 2007 — -- The road that ultimately led to Paris Hilton's house arrest is a convoluted and confusing one -- and it might actually lead her back to jail.

Let ABC News walk you through a series of facts and legal maneuvering that took a celebrity heiress from a drunken ride in the front seat of her Mercedes-Benz to the back seat of a cruiser and a jail cell.

On Sept. 7, 2006 police arrested celebrity socialite Paris Hilton in Hollywood on suspicion of driving under the influence after she was spotted "driving erratically" while out to pick up a late-night burger.

Hilton was charged Sept. 26 with misdemeanor driving under the influence and on Jan. 9, 2007, her lawyers entered not guilty pleas on her behalf to a single count each of driving under the influence and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or above.

Less than a week later, Hilton was pulled over again, this time by the California Highway Patrol. She was informed that her license was suspended in connection with the September DUI charge and she'd signed a document acknowledging she was not supposed to drive.

Hilton pleaded no contest Jan. 22 to a reduced charge of alcohol-related reckless driving. The pleas earned her three years ofprobation and a $1,500 fine. Hilton also was required by the courts to enroll in an alcohol education program.

A month later, Feb. 27, Hilton — still with a suspended license — was stopped by Los Angeles sheriff's deputies for driving "a new Bentley" at 70 mph in a 35 mph zone "in darkness without her headlights on." In her glove compartment was the document she'd signed Jan. 15, acknowledging she was not allowed to drive while her license was suspended.

Not amused, the Los Angeles city attorney's office said March 29 that it would ask a judge to revoke the three-year probation sentence Hilton had received as a result of her January plea agreement.

On May 3 city prosecutors recommended that Hilton serve 45 days in jail for violating the conditions of her probation. They cited three terms of her probation that she'd violated: First, she failed to enroll in the alcohol education course within 21 days of her sentencing; Second, she had several traffic violations stemming from the Feb. 27 incident; and third, prosecutors argued that Hilton failed to "obey all laws and orders of the court."

The next day, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer sentenced Hilton to 45 days in the Century Regional Detention Facility for violating the terms of her probation. In his May 4 order, Sauer specified that Hilton would be allowed no work furlough or release opportunity and would not be eligible for electronic monitoring.

In the next two weeks, Hilton fired and rehired publicist Elliot Mintz and also hired a new attorney, Rich A. Hutton, a DUI specialist.

On May 14 psychiatrist Charles Sophy wrote in court documents about Hilton's anxiety over her impending jail time. Hilton, he wrote, is "distraught and traumatized as a consequence of the findings at the May 4 hearing… and her fear of incarceration."

Two days later, on May 16, officials from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced that the hotel heiress would serve 23 days in a special unit away from the general population. Hilton dropped her appeal the next day, accepting the sentence.

She surprised everyone when she arrived on the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards June 3, claiming she was prepared to serve the term. Skipping out on the after-party scene, Hilton checked into the detention center just before midnight, snapping a now infamous mugshot that featured Hilton in full makeup.

Hilton served her three-day sentence by herself in a 12-by-8-foot jail cell, where she was confined for 23 hours a day. While in jail, she was visited by a psychiatrist and her attorneys.

In the early hours of June 7, Hilton was released from jail because of an undisclosed medical condition. Sheriff Lee Baca ordered that Hilton wear an electronic monitoring bracelet with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 square feet for the next 40 days.

Under the terms of her house arrest, Hilton could stroll outside, get the mail and maybe throw a party, but she could not leave her multimillion Hollywood Hills mansion.

Shortly before noon, Hilton issued a statement through her attorney that included a thank-you to the jail: "I want to thank the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and staff of the Century Regional Detention Center for treating me fairly and professionally."

Late Thursday, Los Angeles city attorneys, angered by the sheriff's decision to free Hilton, petitioned the Los Angeles Superior Court and Judge Sauer, requesting that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department return the socialite to the detention facility to serve the remainder of her sentence.

The prosecutors argued in the June 7 petition that the sheriff's office violated California law and specifically, the judge's order that Hilton not be eligible for an electronic monitoring program. They requested that the court require the sheriff's office to explain why Baca should not be held in contempt.

Because neither the sheriff's department nor Hilton filed any motion to change the court's sentencing order, prosecutors argued that she never should have been released and that the sheriff acted outside his jurisdiction.

The sheriff's deputies union and members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors issued statements criticizing the sheriff's decision. As outrage over Hilton's release grew, Sauer responded to the petition late Thursday night, ordering Hilton and officials from the sheriff's department to report to court first thing Friday to resolve the sentencing dispute.

Baca stood by his decision, claiming that decision was based on medical advice and had nothing to do with preferential treatment of a celebrity.

While legal experts admit that overcrowding in California jails is a commonly accepted reason for early release -- with nonviolent inmates sometimes serving about 10 percent of a full term -- they also said release for medical reasons is unusual. In this case, the medical condition was not specified.

At roughly 10:30 a.m. EDT today, Los Angeles Superior Court Public Information Officer Allan Parachini said that Hilton would not be appearing in court. Instead, she could join the hearing by teleconference.

Less than an hour later, however, ABC News learned that Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer had ordered the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to get Hilton at her home and bring her to court.

Police escorted Hilton in a cruiser to the Superior Court for her hearing over her early release.

Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer delivered the much anticipated decision: he ordered Hilton back to jail to serve her entire 45-day sentence for violating parole on her reckless driving charge.

Sauer claimed that he never endorsed the Los Angeles County sheriff's decision to release Hilton from jail after only three days.

Information in this report was compiled by David Schoetz and Brittany Bacon from the following sources: ABC News, The Associated Press, court records, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Police Department.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events