Paris Hilton Jail Sentence Unfair?
By now, you’ve likely read or heard that Paris Hilton got sentenced to 45 days in jail for violating her parole by driving with a suspended license. Jeralyn Merritt argues that the sentence is much stiffer than usual in such cases, likely because of Hilton’s celebrity status. She cites the judge’s decision to deny her the choice of buying her way into a nicer jail, as is apparently allowed in that jurisdiction.
More generally, Merritt contends that, “Jail should be a last resort for violent offenders from whom society needs to be protected. Driving under suspension, without more, even if on probation, just doesn’t qualify in my opinion. Community service would have been far better.”
As a general rule, I agree that jail should be reserved for those who are a danger to society. It makes no sense, for example, to incarcerate people for drug use or prostitution. There are probably more effective ways of punishing and deterring white collar crime, too.
Still, the woman was a danger to society when she was driving drunk. She wasn’t jailed for that but instead put on probation. She then flouted the terms of that probation. A few days in jail hardly seems unreasonable punishment for that.
Her celebrity status may indeed have hurt her, especially if the judge got the impression that Hilton thought her money and fame would allow her to get away with her misconduct. Then again, shouldn’t public figures, especially rich and powerful ones, be held to a higher standard?
After all, Joe Six Pack is hurt a lot more by a drunk driving offense than a Paris Hilton. She can afford the best legal counsel whereas even a run-of-the-mill attorney’s fees will seriously affect Joe Six Pack’s lifestyle. A fine of, say, $2500 is nothing to Paris Hilton but perhaps a month’s take home pay for him. A suspended license is devastating to most of us; someone with her resources can just hire a chauffeur. So, yeah, when she thumbs her nose at the law after being given a second chance, she ought to be slapped with a stiffer sentence.
Perhaps Hilton should have heeded the advice of her hard-partying predecessor Joe Walsh, who penned these epic words before she was even born:
- My Maserati does one-eighty-five
I lost my license, now I don’t drive
I have a limo, ride in the back
I lock the doors in case I’m attacked
It kept him out of jail.