Plea Deal A Possibility For Nicole Richie At Wednesday Court Hearing For DUI Case

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 8:08 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Nicole Richie will have to decide Wednesday whether to accept a plea deal offered by prosecutors in her driving-under-the-influence case, according to a court spokesman.

Richie was not required to attend the court hearing because she faces a misdemeanor charge. Her attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, was expected to appear on behalf of her client and either accept or reject the plea deal, said Allan Parachini, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Terms of the deal were not made available and the district attorney's office declined to comment. A phone call and an e-mail message left for Chapman Holley were not immediately returned.

On Tuesday, the attorney asked Superior Court Commissioner Steven K. Lubell to delay the trial because one of her witnesses would not be available until Aug. 5. The commissioner told her to submit motions on Wednesday, when Richie's trial was originally scheduled to start.

Richie, 25, was arrested early on Dec. 11 after witnesses reported seeing her SUV headed the wrong way on a freeway in Burbank. She allegedly failed a field sobriety test and authorities said she told them she had smoked marijuana and taken a prescription painkiller. No drugs were found on her or in the vehicle.

She pleaded not guilty in February to misdemeanor driving under the influence.

In addition to the single count, the case contains an allegation that Richie had a prior misdemeanor DUI conviction in June 2003.

The California Vehicle Code says that if convicted of DUI twice within 10 years, a person can be sentenced to between 90 days and a year in jail and have driving privileges suspended.

Her legal problems come amid reports that she is pregnant. Her publicist has not answered repeated telephone and e-mail messages from The Associated Press. Her case also comes on the heels of Paris Hilton's June 26 release from jail. Hilton, Richie's partying pal and co-star in TV's ``The Simple Life,'' spent about 23 days in custody for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

Hilton's case drew a firestorm of criticism, with some saying she received preferential treatment when she was initially given an early release to home confinement and others arguing the judge was too harsh and made Hilton an example by sending her to jail.

Some observers believe Richie could help herself by attending the trial. She also might want to avoid being late to court hearings _ like Hilton was once.

``Anything that appears humble before the court is wise,'' said Hollywood publicist Michael Levine. ``I think there's a backlash afoot because of the Hilton trial and anything to nullify it would be a good idea.''

Others believe Lubell will be unmoved by what happened in Hilton's case and will follow the law accordingly.

``I think it's going to be in the back of his mind,'' said defense attorney Mark Geragos, who has represented Winona Ryder and Michael Jackson. ``But if it's a second DUI offense, it usually carries a mandatory amount of jail time.''

Richie, the daughter of pop singer Lionel Richie, made the late-night talk-show rounds last month, saying she didn't visit Hilton while she was in jail. Richie told CBS' ``Late Show'' host David Letterman that she was worried about going to jail, but was ``willing to face whatever consequences come my way.''