Kiefer Sutherland Pleads No Contest in Drunken Driving Case, Will Serve 48 Days in Jail
LOS ANGELES – Kiefer Sutherland pleaded no contest Tuesday in his drunken driving case and will begin serving a 48-day jail sentence while his Fox TV drama "24" begins its winter production break in December.
The show's star agreed to serve 30 days for driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08 percent, as well as 18 days for violating his probation for a 2004 drunken driving case, according to court records.
The actor was not in the courtroom and his attorney, Blair Berk, entered the plea agreement. A second misdemeanor charge, driving under the influence, was dropped. The charges stemmed from a traffic stop in Los Angeles last month.
As part of the arrangement, Sutherland must also enroll in an 18-month alcohol-education class and attend weekly alcohol-therapy sessions for six months.
"I'm very disappointed in myself for the poor judgment I exhibited recently, and I'm deeply sorry for the disappointment and distress this has caused my family, friends and co-workers on `24' and at 20th Century Fox," Sutherland said in a statement.
While early releases have been granted to others, including celebrities, because of jail crowding and other concerns, Sutherland must serve all of his time, according to the plea agreement. The sheriff also was specifically ordered to not release Sutherland to electronic monitoring.
The 40-year-old actor will officially be sentenced Dec. 21, when he must begin serving the 18 days in the county jail. It also is the same day his show begins its winter production break.
Sutherland then will have until July 1, 2008, to serve the remaining 30 days in jail. He will be on probation for five years and faces fines and a driving suspension, according to court documents.
The actor's plea arrangement ensures that production of "24" will not be interrupted, Fox officials said in a statement.
"Kiefer made clear to us at the time of his arrest that his first concern was the welfare of those he worked with and that he intended to do whatever was necessary to prevent shutting down the show because of his situation," the statement said.
"He told us that even if he had to sacrifice more time in custody in order to protect the show and the jobs of those who work with him, he would do so. From what occurred today, it is evident he is a man of his word," it said.
Sutherland also has a 1993 conviction for alcohol-related reckless driving, according to the city attorney's office.
He won a best actor Emmy last year for his performance as dashing federal counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer on "24."