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Amanda Bynes, the Gift That Just Keeps on Giving to Defense Attorneys

Amanda Bynes was arrested once again, this time for allegedly driving under the influence of a controlled substance.  Bynes was arrested early Sunday morning, September 28, 2014, after blowing through a red light, stopping her white Mercedes in the middle of the intersection. At the time of this arrest, Bynes was still on probation in connection with her 2012 DUI.

Bynes’s arrest couldn’t come at a worse time for her.  Since her 2012 arrest she has had a string of legal entanglements and episodes of bizarre behavior.

Bynes was arrested last year on allegations she threw a bong out the window of her Manhattan apartment when police arrived to investigate complaints that she was smoking pot.   Her defense attorney worked out a deal, similar to what is referred to as a Deferred Entry of Judgment here in California, whereby the charges are dismissed if the defendant complies with the terms and conditions of the court. In Bynes’s case, she had to stay arrest free for six months and get counseling twice a week.  Lucky for Bynes, the clock started ticking on the bong case in January of 2014, so she made it with almost 2 months to spare.

But as stated previously, Bynes is still on probation for her DUI.  While the judge in the DUI case could have revoked Bynes’s probation for the bong incident, it doesn’t appear she was charged with a violation.  This may be because the offense took place in New York, and the charges were ultimately dismissed without Bynes entering a plea.  But this latest brush with the law could be quite different.

Both the 2012 and this latest arrest were in California.  Bynes is schedule to appear on October 23, 2014 in a Van Nuys courtroom, which could be a big problem.  Van Nuys is not the Los Angeles Courthouse you want to have your probation violation case heard.  Van Nuys is one of the more conservative Courthouses in the Los Angeles Superior Court System.   Judges there take violations of probation terms almost personally.  I’ve heard judges tell defendants who admit to probation violations that they “have broken the court’s trust. That they were given a chance, but have shown they can’t be trusted.  That their word isn’t worth anything.”  Judges, especially in Van Nuys, tend to think, “the sentence we handed down before doesn’t seem to have been strong enough, so it’s time to send a message.” This is code for more severe penalties.

But the million dollar question is, “Will Bynes do time?”   While I have never represented Ms. Bynes, nor been involved in any of her cases, I can give an educated guess. I’ve represented many clients in Van Nuys and have seen firsthand what types of sentences judges hand down.  So the answer is, Maybe!   If she is convicted or pleads to a second DUI, she is facing a mandatory 96 hours (four days) in jail.  This is proscribed by California statute and a judge is not allowed to alter it.  However, that’s where we criminal defense attorneys come in handy. A good defense attorney might be able to work out a plea with the DA, allowing Bynes to plead to some other charge to get around the mandatory 96 hours.  But Bynes isn’t out of the woods yet.  The probation violation could land her in jail for up to 180 days (six months).   While it is unlikely a judge would sentence her to the max for a first time violation, 60 days seems quite possible.   And of course the judge could also consider the New York incident in determining Bynes’s sentence.

While the judge might not charge Bynes with a probation violation in connection with the bong incident, s/he is allowed to take notice and consider it when determining what sentence would be appropriate?   The judge may look at Ms. Bynes’s recent behavior and decide she needs a stronger-than-normal lesson.  Of course, it is way too early in Bynes’s case to tell.  Much can and will happen between now and sentencing day.

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About The Author

Los Angeles-based, celebrity criminal defense attorney, Lonnie McDowell, Esq of McDowell & Associates, Attorneys recognized with the Top 100 Trial Attorneys Award; shares his insight into the legal system in this series of commentaries.

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