Lindsay Lohan has a reasonable chance of avoiding jail and even a conviction in her felony grand theft case, even though she’s been accused of stealing several times in the past, legal experts tell PEOPLE.
“This is far from a slam-dunk case,” says L.A. criminal defense attorney Steve Sitkoff of the allegation that the actress, 24, stole a $2,500 necklace.
“All her attorney has to do is convince one juror it was an innocent misunderstanding and she could walk, unless they decide to retry her again.”
Adds L.A. criminal defense attorney Harland Braun: “Even if she’s convicted, I doubt she’ll get state prison time because she’s not a physical threat to the public. Prison is generally regarded as a place for hardened criminals, not someone who clearly has mental issues. She has a defensible case.”
Experts also agree that her past theft allegations could be used against her in court depending on whether the judge finds the accusations relevant.
Here are among the possible resolutions to the actress’s case:
• Lohan could reach a plea deal without going to trial, and be sentenced to anywhere from six months to a year in county jail for the alleged theft as well as for violating her probation. “In this case, the court could figure out a way to make sure she does substantial time and forbid her from early release due to overcrowding,” Sitkoff says.
• She could also strike a deal in which she only gets felony probation with no jail time and if she stays out of trouble for three years, the judge could reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. Lohan’s attorney Shawn Chapman Holley stated on Thursday she was seeking this as a possible outcome.
• The actress wins at trial by convincing jurors she didn’t intend to steal. However, Lohan could still face a probation violation and return to jail without a conviction in the theft case.
• Lohan could go to trial and lose, and could be subject to harsher punishment if the judge decides she was being deceitful to the court. “But if she loses at trial, I can’t see her getting more than eight months in state prison,” Braun says.