As Anne Heche Remains in a Coma After Car Crash, Legal Expert Explains What Legal Jeopardy She May Face

·4 min read

As Anne Heche remains in a coma after a devastating car crash on Friday, Los Angeles authorities are continuing their investigation of the incident — and a legal expert outlines various consequences the actress could face.

Legal analyst Emily D. Baker, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, tells PEOPLE that even as much remains unclear about what led Heche to crash into the home, the actress would likely not face charges if "she was having a medical emergency."

On the other hand, says Baker, "If she drove into someone's house because something was going on and there was an intention there, it's a much different circumstance. Without more known, it's hard to evaluate. But on a standard misdemeanor DUI where no one's injured, there's generally not jail time."

Heche, 53, was in a blue Mini Cooper on Friday that crashed into a home belonging to Jennifer Durand and occupied by Durand's tenant Lynne Mishele. The residence caught fire, resulting in the Emmy-winning actress suffering burns from the incident. She was then intubated while hospitalized.

RELATED: Anne Heche 'Was Very Pleasant' During Salon Visit Ahead of Crash, Owner Says

MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 29: Anne Heche poses for portrait at 3rd Annual Mammoth Film Festival Portrait Studio – Saturday on February 29, 2020 in Mammoth Lakes, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Mammoth Media Institute); Anne Heche photos from the accident scene are taken by our own Marissa Charles
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 29: Anne Heche poses for portrait at 3rd Annual Mammoth Film Festival Portrait Studio – Saturday on February 29, 2020 in Mammoth Lakes, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Mammoth Media Institute); Anne Heche photos from the accident scene are taken by our own Marissa Charles

Michael Bezjian/Getty for Mammoth Media Institute; Marissa Charles

On Monday, a representative for Heche told PEOPLE that the actress is currently in critical condition in a coma and has not regained consciousness.

"At this time Anne is in critical condition," the rep said in a statement. "She has a significant pulmonary injury requiring mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention. She is in a coma and has not regained consciousness since shortly after the accident."

Many eyewitness reported Heche's driving as "reckless," which Baker says can mean many things during an ongoing investigation.

"The reckless driving can be individual charges depending on what the police [gather] as independent evidence ... you never know what a civilian determines as reckless," she explains. "It likely, at this point, goes into suspicion of DUI. If someone's going 20 miles above the speed limit in a residential area, that can be considered reckless driving. It really just depends on what's reported to police and where their investigation goes, but in something like this, they are always going to consider [the driver could have been] under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They have to rule that out."

When contacted by PEOPLE, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that a warrant for Heche's blood draw test was issued on Friday — something Baker notes is standard protocol in similar cases.

"Warrants are able to be obtained very quickly any time, day or night," she says. "Because these are commonly done, it's not an unusual or slow procedure."

"That would need to be done by search warrant, but given the two crashes and the ring camera footage I think it would have been an easy search warrant to get," she adds.

RELATED: Authorities Obtained Warrant to Test Anne Heche's Blood but Won't Be in a 'Hurry to Arrest': Legal Expert

Anne Heche attends the 74th annual Directors Guild of America award
Anne Heche attends the 74th annual Directors Guild of America award

LISA O'CONNOR/getty

As they investigate, authorities will "look into the circumstances around both crashes, the witnesses, and present it to the district attorney's office," Baker says.

If it's found that Heche had drugs or alcohol in her system, Baker says the charges will largely depend on the actress' legal history with driving under the influence.

"I don't know Anne Heche's record, but assuming she has no other DUIs, it probably would be just first-time DUI, which generally does not include jail time especially given that no one was hurt except for her," she says. "With the property damage and stuff, could they put her on probation for a longer time than you'd see in a typical DUI? Yes. Could they require more alcohol classes? Yes. Could her license be restricted for longer? Yes. But I would not anticipate, without more information, jail time."

RELATED VIDEO: Woman Who Lost House in Anne Heche Car Crash Is 'Extremely Fortunate' to Be Alive, Neighbor Says

As far as the next steps legally, Baker says authorities may "take their time" with the investigation given the unique circumstances.

"Since she's in hospital, I imagine they will take their time," she says. "Also because she's a public figure, they're probably going to take a little more time and not be in a hurry to arrest. And depending on how long she's in the hospital, she's not going anywhere."

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As for whether or not the owners can sue Heche for loss of property, Baker says there are "a couple options."

"The owner of the property would be the first one — the owner of the property is going to have to pay for the renter to stay somewhere while they repair the property," she says. "So the owner of the property is going to have to look at repairing that property, though they'd probably go after insurance first. And then the renter, if they lost all of their possessions inside, insurance is the first stop on all of this for going after someone for replacement costs."

John and Jennifer Durand, who own the house that was destroyed, have since launched a GoFundMe to help Mishele cover the loss of "the place she loves" and most of her belongings.