What the Lohans Taught Me About the Criminal Justice SystemS

Every time Lindsay Lohan drinks, it costs $10,000. English muffins can trigger false positives on alcohol monitors. Probation is the most complicated thing in the world. These are the things I've learned from the daily travails of the Lohans.

Keeping up with the Lohans is like taking a tour of America's weirdest legal loopholes. Everyone in this family is on probation, under an order of protection, or on conditional release. Michael's a felon, so for a while there, he couldn't even vote. Lessons on criminality, from the Lohans:

1. Money Can Buy You Freedom
Even with her alcohol-monitoring SCRAM bracelet blinking at her ankle, Lindsay Lohan can booze all she wants, as long as she's willing to pay $10,000 per bender. Lindsay's bail was originally set at $100,000; she paid 10 percent of that to a bond company, which fronted the rest. When her SCRAM notified authorities of a bail violation, a second warrant was issued for her arrest, plus another $100,000 bail. All Lindsay had to do was pay $10,000 more to her bond company, and the arrest threat went away. By law, the judge can't revoke bail altogether and throw LiLo in jail. For a misdemeanor, all you can do is increase the premium, repeatedly, until the day when she is found guilty or innocent. (And then, if she's guilty of the probation violation that started it all then maybe—just maybe—she will get thrown in the slammer.)

2. Probation Is a Complicated Obstacle Course
Speaking of the misdemeanor that started this all: There were two, a pair of DUIs (each of which also revealed "usable" amounts of cocaine in LiLo's possession) in 2007. Those crimes set up a long line of dominoes and several hoops for Lindsay to jump through. If she successfully ran the course without knocking over a domino, she would avoid jail time. But she fell short leaping through the final hoop—completing a series of alcohol education classes—and when she fell, she hit the row of dominoes and started a chain reaction. Suddenly there were court dates and probation hearings, and it was those dominoes—missing a court date while in Cannes—that brought about the arrest warrant and SCRAM. In the short run, all Lindsay did wrong was take a late plane back from Cannes. In the long run, it's a heap of toppled dominoes leading back to something she did three years ago. Basically, the entire criminal justice system is a complicated metric for karma, and if you don't have a team of whippersnapper lawyers, there is no hope.

3. SCRAM Bracelets Are Temperamental Pieces of Crap
Some alcoholics use booze-sniffing ankle monitors for therapeutic purposes. Good for them. As a tool for criminal justice, however, SCRAM bracelets are temperamental and startlingly inexact. They measure alcohol content in the sweat coming out of the SCRAM-wearer's leg pores, but you don't have to drink to make alcoholic sweat. According to The New York Times, it can take as little as eating an English muffin to push the body's natural digestion-related production of alcohol into SCRAM's false positive zone. Wearing perfume or using hand sanitizer could also send alcohol into the wearer's system. Dirt and other build-up has been known to cause false positives. As Gawker commenter DrunkExpatWriter explains the moral of the story:

Think how many people without access to expensive lawyers and/or bail money have their probation revoked and spend additional years in prison because a false positive from a thing that can get set off by perfume?

Without her lawyers and money, LiLo would be in jail right now for SCRAM-related bail violation—and it's not clear whether she even drank. On the upside, SCRAM's makers say Dina Lohan's claim that spilled alcohol can cause a false positive isn't true.

4. Dare to Dream Big, Unless You're a Felon
Lindsay's father Michael has been in running his own obstacle course of criminality for as long as Lindsay has been alive. When Lindsay was filming The Parent Trap, Michael was on probation for being contempt of court on an insider trading case (he was never convicted of insider trading, just of failing to answer questions about it in court) and broke parole to hang out with her in California, so he had to go to jail. (BTW, this is the moment LiLo's daddy issues start.) Then he assaulting his kids' uncle during son Dakota's first communion, but before he could be sentenced, got in a DUI, ultimately leading to a felony conviction. Now, as a partner at ominously named Westhampton nightclub Controversy, Lohan is legally barred from having a liquor license—which wouldn't be a problem (the license is in someone else's name) except that, when the cops came to check on the license, they coincidentally found a bunch of zoning problems that could ruin Controversy. Point being: Once you start the falling-domino chain reaction of criminality, it never stops. And if you're a felon, you're extra-screwed.

5. But Even If You're a Felon, You Can Get the Police to Help You Harass Your Kids
Citing "concern" for daughter Ali, Michael got police to escort him into daughter Lindsay's home, where Ali was then residing, last April. Since Michael told the L.A. County Sheriff a child was in danger, they had to investigate, and let him tag along. "We were there," a Sheriff spokesperson said. "We found no evidence of abuse." Lindsay threatened to get a restraining order against her dad, but hasn't gone through with it. [Images: X-17 and Getty]