Actor Kiefer Sutherland Pleads No Contest to Drunk Driving Charges

TV actor Kiefer Sutherland has pleaded no contest to charges of drunk driving. The star of the TV show “24” will start serving a 48-day jail sentence in December when his show goes on a production break.

As part of his plea deal, Sutherland 18 days of those 48 days are for violating his probation for an unrelated drunk driving arrest in 2004. 30 days are for driving with a blood-alcohol level higher than California’s .08% limit. Sutherland also has been ordered to take part in alcohol-therapy sessions every week for six month, as well as sign up for an 18-month alcohol education course. . A related, misdemeanor DUI charge was dropped.

The TV actor is on probation for five years. He faces driving suspension and has to pay fines.

Sutherland will serve the 18-day part of his sentence beginning December 21. He has until July 28 to serve the last 30 days. The terms of the plea agreement allow him to serve time in jail in a manner that will not interrupt the show “24”‘s shooting schedule. Sutherland’s representatives say he struck this deal with prosecutors because he did not want production to shut down while he was on trial or served time in jail-possibly affecting the livelihoods of the production members and other actors on the show.

“No Contest” Plea
A “plea” is the response of a defendant to criminal charges made against him or her. A defendant usually gives the plea during an arraignment right after the prosecution formally charges the defendant with the crime(s). A defendant can plea “guilty”, “not guilty,” and “no contest.”

A “no contest” plea means that defendant is formally accepting the punishments for the charges but is not officially acknowledging guilt. Pleading “no contest” is inadmissible as evidence of guilt if there is a related civil lawsuit, which can be a benefit to the defendant.

A “no contest” plea differs from a “guilty” plea. The defendant that pleads guilty is admitting that he or she is guilty of the charges.

“No contest’ and “guilty” pleas are often accompanied by a plea bargain. A plea bargain usually allows a defendant to receive a less severe sentence or have certain charges dropped. A plea bargain also minimizes the financial costs and publicity fallout from a criminal case-the latter of these two can be very important if the defendant is a celebrity, politician, or another famous figure. A plea bargain allows a defendant to avoid the stigma and unwanted scrutiny of a trial, as well as the uncertainty of the outcome.

Sutherland Pleads No Contest in DUI Case, AP, October 9, 2007
Related Web Resources:

Kiefer Sutherland charged with drunk driving, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2007
Massachusetts Law about Drunk Driving

If you have been arrested in Massachusetts for OUI-operating under the influence-of alcohol or drugs you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Your criminal defense lawyer can possibly get the charges against you dropped or reduced.

The fallout from a drunk driving conviction can be very severe. You may have to serve time in jail, get your license revoked, and be ordered to pay a fine. You will also have a conviction on your record.

In Massachusetts, the criminal defense law firm of Altman & Altman LLP has more than 50 years experience successfully representing adults and minors that have been charged with OUI, DUI, and DWI. To schedule your free consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers, contact Altman & Altman LLP today.

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