Legal Expert Weighs In On How Anne Heche's Medical Condition May Affect Her Case – Exclusive

Fans of the actor Anne Heche are collectively holding their breath, waiting for news of the "Six Days Seven Nights" star since her fiery car crash on August 5.

Heche crashed her Mini Cooper into an apartment garage in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles before taking off again, per TMZ, only to slam into a nearby house. A neighbor found the front wall of the house missing, and Heche's car lodged into the back wall, per the Los Angeles Times. The crash started a serious fire that destroyed the home, and Heche was taken to a hospital with severe burns and intubated. Though her publicist stated the next day that she was in stable condition, that turned out to be false as Heche's condition was revealed to be significantly worse. "Shortly after the accident, Anne Heche became unconscious, slipping into a coma and is in critical condition," a spokesperson said.

Investigators have been working to determine whether Heche, who has been open about her experiences with substance use and mental health issues, was under the influence when the crash happened, obtaining a search warrant for her blood. The August 11 results showed Heche had narcotics in her system, per CNN, but more testing is needed to determine whether she received them at the hospital. Meanwhile, it's enough to increase the police investigation from a misdemeanor to felony DUI. Amid these developments, Nicki Swift spoke exclusively to an expert to see how Heche's medical condition might affect her case.

Legal expert says too much remains to be seen

While Anne Heche's fans and supporters hope for some good news about her medical condition, as she's still in a coma at Grossman Burn Center in West Hills, per CNN, Nicki Swift spoke exclusively with defense attorney and former Los Angeles County prosecutor Joshua Ritter, currently a partner with Werksman Jackson & Quinn, LLP. We asked whether Heche's condition would cause a delay in the legal proceedings.

"The only delay would take place at the request of Heche or her attorneys, if for example she is so injured she can't assist in her own defense," Ritter said, as appears to be the case. However, "if she is competent to stand trial, and hasn't suffered some sort of brain injury, she will be on the same timeline as any other defendant, because she has the same constitutional rights as any defendant."

We also asked Ritter how much jail time Heche might face, if she is charged with felony DUI now that the owner of the house, Lynne Mishele, has suffered injuries from debris and smoke related to the crash, according to Fox News. Not to mention the mental and emotional trauma she experienced as Mishele and her pets (two dogs and a turtle) narrowly escaped the collision, per People. "It's too early to tell," Ritter said, as "It depends on what they ultimately charge her with. But there is definitely the possibility of prison time if she is charged with a felony DUI with property damage and found guilty in court."