Paris Hilton likely to avoid jail on cocaine bust

Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:32pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Paris Hilton was charged on Monday with cocaine possession after a high-profile arrest in Las Vegas during the weekend, but the socialite is unlikely to do a second stint behind bars.

Hilton, 29, faces up to four years in a Nevada prison if convicted of the felony charge of possessing 0.8 grams of "powder cocaine" in a purse.

But the Los Angeles Times, quoting a legal expert, said Hilton was more likely to be sentenced to a diversion program if prosecutors are able to prove their case.

Hilton and her boyfriend, Cy Waits, were stopped just before midnight on Friday after police said they smelled marijuana smoke coming from their vehicle. When a crowd formed, they were taken to the nearby Wynn Hotel for some privacy.

The police report details that when Hilton asked to get some lip balm from her purse, an officer saw "a small bindle of what I believed to be cocaine in a clear baggy" and the bindle fell from the purse into the officer's hand.

Hilton told police she had borrowed the purse from a friend, and she thought the cocaine was gum.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Dmitry Gorin, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor and noted defense attorney, as saying that prosecutors would need to prove that it was Hilton's purse and also have to overcome any doubts that the marijuana smell came from her vehicle.

Similar arrests are often made on the Las Vegas Strip, and most end up in some kind of diversion program unless the person has a lengthy prior record, he said.

Hilton has had dust-ups with the law, but she is not quite a hardened criminal. She spent three weeks in a Los Angeles jail in 2007 for violating probation on a reckless driving charge. In July, she was detained on suspicion of possessing marijuana in South Africa following a World Cup soccer match, but was released by police and not charged.

After her latest arrest, her lawyers issued a statement encouraging people "not to rush to judgment until all of the facts have been dealt with in a court of law." There was no further statement from the lawyers on Monday, and court officials in Las Vegas also declined comment.

(Editing by Dean Goodman)