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Bracelet monitor no help to Lohan

An alcohol-checking device doesn't prevent trouble as she is arrested on DUI, drug charges.

July 25, 2007|Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Lindsay Lohan and her handlers had hoped to keep her sobriety going with a special ankle bracelet that monitored her alcohol intake through her perspiration.

Instead the technology -- sometimes imposed by Los Angeles County authorities and used by other celebrities trying to go straight -- just helped chronicle her fall off the wagon.

The 21-year-old actress was arrested Tuesday after the mother of one of Lohan's assistants dialed 911 to report that she was being chased by Lohan in her SUV. The assistant had quit her job just hours before, police said.

Police said the actress failed a DUI breath test, which registered a blood-alcohol level between 0.12% and 0.13% -- over the California legal limit of 0.08% -- after police stopped her at 1:35 a.m.

While Lohan was in jail, officers found a small amount of cocaine in her pocket, said Santa Monica Police Lt. Alex Padilla.

The actress was booked on several misdemeanors and felonies, including suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving on a suspended license, possession of cocaine and transport of a narcotic, police said Tuesday morning.

However, later in the day, a police press release did not include the narcotic transport allegation.

Her arrest comes just two weeks after she left a rehabilitation facility in Malibu following a DUI-related crash in Beverly Hills.

Since then, she had been seen around town and in paparazzi photos wearing the bracelet, a high-tech device known as a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor. It measures alcohol content emitted through perspiration and relays the information either to authorities or, in this case, her attorney, Blair Berk.

Berk, one of Hollywood's top criminal attorneys, said she monitored Lohan's alcohol level via ankle bracelet regularly and that the starlet had been doing well.

"Unfortunately, late yesterday I was informed that Lindsay had relapsed," Berk said. "Addiction is a terrible and vicious disease."

Hours later, the star of such movies as "Mean Girls" and "Freaky Friday" was under arrest by Santa Monica police at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium parking lot after being found behind the wheel of a 2004 GMC Yukon. Lohan was released at 6:20 a.m. after posting $25,000 bond, police said.

Other stars, including Tracy Morgan, Eve and Michelle Rodriguez, have worn the devices under Los Angeles County Superior Court orders (Rodriguez compared it to wearing a VCR around her ankle).

Unlike those stars, Lohan voluntarily wore the device.

But there is debate about whether the bracelets are effective, especially for those who have relapsed again and again. The bracelets, critics say, won't prevent another offense. They just create a record of events.

"They don't prevent a person drinking and driving and endangering others," said Rebecca Lonergan, a USC law professor and former prosecutor. She added, however, that it does allow those who conduct the monitoring to check the truthfulness of the wearer when it comes to alcohol usage.

Veronica King, who operates Irish Acres, a sobriety retreat outside of Newhaven, Conn., said the bracelet underscores a larger problem she sees with celebrity-oriented rehab centers. She said such programs don't require the work needed to beat addiction. She suggested that Lohan needs six months of rehab, "not a stay at a hotel spa rehab."

"I see celebrity programs that let them go to work," she said. "You have to take the cellphone from them at the door."

Alcohol Monitoring Systems Inc. of Highlands Ranch, Colo., said its devices have been used to monitor about 40,000 people in 43 states. Company officials say it creates a record for officials but doesn't stop behavior.

Backers argue that it is a useful way to verify whether alcoholics have relapsed but agree that the system cannot prevent someone from drinking and then taking part in criminal behavior.

The company released a statement saying records from its devices are confidential. "Each individual SCRAM unit is tested before it is deployed in the field, and diagnostic tools help us continually monitor units for proper function," the statement said.

Still, some are skeptical of the arrangement.

"It was not a good advertisement for the bracelet," said Raoul L. Felder, a noted New York attorney and former prosecutor. "She uses her rehab center like a hotel and she used that ridiculous bracelet like a piece of jewelry." Because of the cocaine possession allegation, Lohan could receive up to three years if convicted on all charges, veteran L.A. attorneys say. But she is more likely to serve a little jail time and enter a drug diversion program, they say.

On Tuesday, Santa Monica authorities were still trying to piece together Lohan's actions before her arrest.

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