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Lindsay Lohan Could Dodge Probation Bullet

3/26/2011 4:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

A legal technicality could save Lindsay Lohan from going to jail for her alleged probation violation -- or at least delay it.

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Judge Stephanie Sautner -- who will preside over Lindsay's felony grand theft case -- will hold a preliminary hearing next month, in which prosecutors will present evidence she allegedly stole a necklace from a Venice jewelry store.

In California, prosecutors often don't present witnesses in preliminary hearings -- rather, police officers testify about what the witnesses told them. 

If prosecutor Danette Meyers uses police officer testimony to make her case, that cannot be used to determine if Lindsay violated her probation, because it's hearsay.  Under California law, judge's are not permitted to use hearsay involving key witnesses to violate a person's probation.

Short story -- it's likely Judge Sautner will not make a decision on whether Lindsay goes to jail for her probation violation until after the trial. 

Here's the bad news.  Even if Lindsay is found not guilty at trial, Judge Sautner could still violate her probation and throw her in jail.  The standard for determining a probation violation -- probable cause -- is much lower than the standard to convict someone of a crime -- beyond a reasonable doubt.

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