Richie’s 82 minutes in jail

Times Staff Writer

Now that’s what you call fast service.

Reality TV star Nicole Richie was released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after serving just 82 minutes of her four-day sentence for driving under the influence of drugs.

Richie reported to the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood at 3:15 p.m. After being processed, sheriff’s officials released her at 4:37 p.m.

Authorities said her sentence was radically cut under guidelines the Sheriff’s Department uses to deal with chronic overcrowding in its jail system. The county is under a federal order to reduce overcrowding, resulting in the release of thousands of inmates who serve just a fraction of their sentences.

But the episode brought more criticism to a department already under fire for releasing Richie’s “Simple Life” co-star, Paris Hilton, before her sentence was completed.

“It is wrong. It sends the wrong message to our youth,” L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said.


Richie’s jailing was a result of her Dec. 11 arrest by California Highway Patrol officers. She was driving the wrong way on the 134 Freeway in Burbank after using marijuana and Vicodin. After officers spotted Richie in the carpool lane, she told them she had smoked pot and taken the painkiller.

As part of her sentence, the now-pregnant Richie also agreed to serve three years of probation, must enroll in an alcohol education program and was fined $2,048.

Undersheriff Larry Waldie, second in command at the department, said Richie was treated like any other female inmate.

“The reality of overcrowding is that would have happened to any female inmate with a 96-hour sentence,” he said. “They were told to treat her like any other inmate, and that is what happened here.”

Officials said a nonviolent woman sentenced to less than 30 days in jail typically serves less than 12 hours.

In 2006, actress Michelle Rodriguez received a 60-day sentence for violating probation and was out after four hours and 20 minutes because of jail overcrowding.

Over the last five years, more than 200,000 inmates have been released early because of overcrowding in county jails.

Sheriff Lee Baca came under criticism after his department released Hilton after he credited her with serving five days of her 45-day sentence.

Baca said he decided to allow her to serve her sentence under electronic monitoring because of an unspecified medical condition that was potentially life-threatening.

But a judge demanded that Hilton be returned to jail, where she served 23 days.

A Times analysis of detention records found that punishment to be significantly higher than others sentenced for similar crimes received.

Shawn Chapman Holley, Richie’s attorney, said her client was “treated like any other inmate in her situation would be treated. I was pleased because she is a celebrity. She wasn’t treated any different.”


Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.