On the Hollywood starlet scale of justice, Lindsay Lohan rates more of a Nicole Richie than a Paris Hilton.
Although Lohan could have faced up to three years behind prison bars stemming from her dual DUI arrests in recent months, in the end she will serve just one day in a county jail after copping a plea Thursday to five misdemeanor drunken-driving and cocaine charges.
Aside from her day trip to lockup, Lohan was sentenced to 10 days of community service, ordered to complete drug treatment and an 18-month alcohol-education program, and put on three years' probation, during which time she's forbidden from associating with drug users.
The 21-year-old tabloid princess was not required to fly in from her Utah rehab retreat to be in the Beverly Hills courtroom, but she released a statement to E! News in which she for the first time acknowledged having sobriety issues.
"It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable, because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs," she said.
"Recently, I relapsed and did things for which I am ashamed. I broke the law, and today I took responsibility," she continued. "No matter what I said when I was under the influence on the day I was arrested, I am not blaming anyone else for my conduct other than myself. I thank God I did not injure others. I easily could have.
"I very much want to be healthy and gain control of my life and career, and have asked for medical help in doing so. I am taking these steps to improve my life. Luckily, I am not alone in my daily struggle and I know that people like me have succeeded. Maybe with time it will become easier. I hope so."
As part of the sentence handed down by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge H. Chester Horn Jr., Lohan must also attend a three-day county coroner program in which she'll visit a morgue and talk to victims of drunken drivers.
Lohan's lawyer, the busy Blair Berk (who was in a Malibu courtroom earlier Thursday representing Mel Gibson in his DUI case), struck the deal hours after the District Attorney's Office filed seven misdemeanor—but no felony—counts against the rehabbing actress. (View the charges.)
In all, Lohan pleaded guilty to two counts of being under the influence of cocaine; she pleaded no contest to no contest to two counts of driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08 percent and a single count of reckless driving. Prosecutors agreed to drop two additional counts of driving under the influence.
She could have faced a maximum of one year in jail if convicted of the charges. She must serve her time and complete her treatment by Jan. 18, 2008.
"She's getting what everyone else would get," Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers said following the afternoon hearing. Meyers said Lohan could face 120 days in jail for another DUI.
Lohan's estranged father, for one, thinks jail, even a day, should have been off-limits.
"Jail would probably harm Lindsay more than help her. Just going through the booking process and then spending that first night or two in a cell, it's such a terrible thing, just terrible to go through," said the elder Lohan, himself a recovering addict who has logged time behind bars.
"And I think what she's going through right now is enough. Trying to get sober is already such a struggle. And that's what she needs, to be in a place that can help her with that struggle to get better. And that's not jail. Jail would cripple her recovery. She's suffered enough."
Meanwhile, Lindsay's mom, Dina, feared for her daughter's safety.
“It’s really sad,” she told E! News. “Something bad is going to happen, I’m afraid.”
The charges stemmed from two separate DUI incidents, one of which took place in Beverly Hills over Memorial Day weekend and her bust last month in Santa Monica. Investigators determined Lohan had cocaine in her possession during both incidents, but the amounts found were less than the 0.05 grams required for a felony filing.
On May 26, a then 20-year-old Lohan was arrested after losing control of her Mercedes SL65 on Sunset Boulevard, plowing over the curb and into some trees.
The accident came during a wild weekend for Lohan, who just three months earlier spent a month in treatment at L.A.'s Wonderland center. The party-hearty actress spent a few hours in an emergency room but was out clubbing just hours later. However, by the end of the holiday, Berk had chauffeured Lohan to Promises in Malibu for what became an extended tour of duty.
While there, she called off a ballyhooed 21st birthday party scheduled for Las Vegas and instead celebrated quietly with her mom and siblings.
On July 24—just 11 days after checking out of Promises and wearing an alcohol-sniffing ankle monitor—Lohan was collared following a high-speed car chase.
The sensational bust took place in Santa Monica in the early morning hours and came after the mother of Lohan's former personal assistant phoned the police, claiming she was being pursued by a white SUV that turned out to be driven by Lohan.
Lohan was not wearing her ankle bracelet at the time of her bust and refused to take a Breathalyzer test at the scene. A blood test at the station revealed a blood-alcohol level between 0.12 and 0.13 percent, well above the state's 0.08 legal limit.
Worse yet, while conducting a prebooking search of the actress, police found a "small amount" of cocaine in one of Lohan's pockets, now revealed to be 0.02 grams. If the amount had been larger, it could have resulted in both felony possession charges and felony charges for bringing the substance into a correctional facility.
Despite an admission from Berk that her client had, regrettably, "relapsed," Lohan initially pleaded not guilty in the court of public opinion.
"I am innocent...did not do drugs they're not mine," Lohan wrote in an email to Access Hollywood just hours after her arrest.
Nonetheless, within days Lohan was ensconced in the Cirque Lodge rehab center in Sundance, Utah, for her third go-round at sobriety this year.
The actress has apparently been taking her time in treatment seriously. Paparazzi photos have shown her biking and hiking, while OK! magazine reports that Lohan is participating in equine therapy, daily yoga and other exercise, including river rafting. She is also journaling daily and has even enrolled in Cirque's work-treatment program, in which she stocks shelves at a local supermarket. Her earnings are donated directly to a local charity.
While in treatment, Lohan has been hit by the first of several expected lawsuits related to the car chase. Tracie Rice, who was in the vehicle pursued by Lohan, is seeking damages for assault, negligence and intentional affliction of emotional distress. The men who were in the SUV comandeered by Lohan have also hired a lawyer to look into litigation.
"She is a victim of her own celebrity," said Michael Lohan. "She is a little girl who has been used by everybody around her because of her celebrity, and that's what's landed her where she is.
"Now she needs a helping hand, not a sentence."