By Stephen M. Silverman
May 18, 1998 12:00 AM

The issue of whether or not Robert Downey Jr., 35, will face another jail term could likely take weeks to answer, even if a plea bargain is quickly reached, case prosecutor Tamara Capone has told Reuters. This is apparently why Fox TV and producer David E. Kelley felt safe in announcing Downey’s continuance of his role on “Ally McBeal” for eight additional episodes, through the end of the current season, the news service deduced after speaking to lawyers on both sides. “People try to go on with their lives as much as possible, even when facing punishment for committing a crime,” said Capone, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney. She noted that no plea agreement was imminent. On Wednesday, Downey is scheduled to appear for a hearing during which he will have a chance to strike a plea deal with prosecutors. But Capone said that she and the actor’s legal counsel would probably ask that the proceedings be postponed to allow more time for lab tests of physical evidence. Downey was arrested over Thanksgiving in a Palm Springs hotel suite and charged with felony drug possession. Only last August, he was sprung from a California state penitentiary after serving a term for drug abuse.