Britney Spears driver's license case heads to trial

LOS ANGELES Wed Oct 15, 2008 6:49pm EDT

Britney Spears drives her Mercedes Benz as she leaves the Stanley Mosk Courthouse garage after a child custody hearing with her ex-husband regarding her two sons in Los Angeles, California October 26, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Britney Spears drives her Mercedes Benz as she leaves the Stanley Mosk Courthouse garage after a child custody hearing with her ex-husband regarding her two sons in Los Angeles, California October 26, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jury selection for a Britney Spears driving charge began on Wednesday despite last minutes hopes of a plea bargain that would have avoided a full-scale trial for the pop singer.

Spears, 26, exercised her right to stay away from court as her attorney defended her against a charge of driving without a valid California license.

Attorney J. Michael Flanagan has sought unsuccessfully to have the misdemeanor charge, filed in August 2007, thrown out.

But he told reporters that prosecutors offered Spears no leniency if she pleaded guilty to avoid a trial.

Flanagan has said the singer intends to fight the charge because she does not want any kind of criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor, on her record. If convicted, Spears could face a maximum of six months in jail but would more likely face a fine and probation, prosecutors said.

The case stems from an August 2007 incident in which Spears hit another car in a Los Angeles parking lot while being pursued by paparazzi. That part of the case was settled with the driver out of court a year ago.

But the singer was driving with a license from her home state of Louisiana. She has since got her California license.

"Even if she pleads guilty it's a 'fix-it ticket,'" Flanagan said. "And she's not guilty."

Prosecutors have said that Spears, as a resident of California, should have had a driver's license from the state at the time of the collision.

"We are treating this case like any other misdemeanor case," said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's office.

Flanagan acknowledged that Spears lives in California, but he said that he will argue in court that she could use a Louisiana license because her "domicile" is not in the state.

"You can have more than one residence, you can only have one domicile," Flanagan said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jill Serjeant)

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