With Lindsay Lohan’s most recent court appearance resulting in a sentence of lockdown rehab instead of prison, people are once again talking about ‘celebrity justice’. The theory behind the term is that a celebrity can commit a crime and avoid prison while the average person can commit the same crime and find themselves behind bars. I don’t know if I buy that theory, to be honest but it certainly seems to have some credibility. Lots of celebrities seem to be able to avoid the clink but there are really a lot of factors at play anytime someone steps before a judge. If overcrowding is an issue, as it is in many prisons across the United States, a judge is far less likely to sentence someone to prison for a non-violent crime. If the accused doesn’t have a criminal record, jail is also unlikely for a non-violent crime. The person’s attitude in court can also play a role. Finally, if there seems to be an obvious substance abuse issue behind the crime, come judges will choose rehab over prison in hopes of solving the underlying problem. Is that the case for all celebrities who avoided jail? Of course not. Let’s not forget though, for every example of a celebrity who probably should’ve gotten more than a slap on the wrist or a fine, there is an example of a celebrity who went to jail. In truth, there are lots of celebrities who have gone to jail. That is what this list is all about.
Before we start looking at the celebrities who went to jail that I’ve included on this list, I wanted to take a moment, as I usually do, to talk about why I chose the people I chose because there are a few notable examples I chose not to include. First, I’ve excluded anyone whose time in prison came before they were a celebrity. That might seem obvious considering the nature of the list but that means people like Tim Allen, 50 Cent and Mark Wahlberg won’t be on here. Second, I don’t want to include spending a night behind bars as serving time in prison. Celebrities who were arrested but not sentenced to time in prison are not included here. I also excluded anyone that I don’t really consider famous or don’t feel most people would recognize by name. Finally, I included mugshots for most of the celebrities but I want to mention two things. First, mugshots were not available for all of the celebrities, usually because the state they were arrested in does not allow mugshots to be released to the public. Second, the mugshots included do not always go with the crime I’ve written about. The year under the photo indicated the year the shot was taken. Finally, all photos via The Smoking Gun unless indicated otherwise.
15: Wesley Snipes
Born: Wesley Trent Snipes on July 31, 1962 in Orlando, Florida
Best Known For: several films including Demolition Man, White Men Can’t Jump, To Wong Foo and the Blade trilogy
Date of Arrest: charged October 12, 2006
Offense: failure to file United States federal income tax returns
Sentence: 3 years in prison, began serving his sentence on December 9, 2010
Served: Snipes will likely serve his full sentence.
14: Vince Neil
Born: Vincent Neil Wharton on February 8, 1961 in Hollywood, California
Best Known For: vocalist for Motley Crue (on and off), solo artist
Date of Arrest: late 1984
Offense: vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence (several additional arrests but this was the first)
Sentence: 30 days in prison, 5 years probation, $2.6 million in restitution to the families of those injured (or killed) in the crash that resulted in his arrest, 200 hours community service
Served: 15 days in prison
*It’s worth noting here that although Vince was arrested for drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter after a crash that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer, Razzle Dingley – a friend of Neil’s – he has not learned his lesson, arrested twice more for DUI (once in 2007 and once in 2010). The second arrest landed him behind bars for a second time, once again serving 15 days behind bars.
Born: Clifford Joseph Harris on September 25, 1980 in Atlanta, Georgia
Best Known For: songs like What You Know, Why You Wanna, Live in the Sky, Whatever You Like, Swagga Like Us, Dead and Gone, Live Your Life
Date of Arrest: October 13, 2007
Offense: possession of three unregistered machine guns and two silencers, possesion of firearms by a convicted felon
Sentence: one year and one day in prison, $100, 300 in fines on March 27, 2009, began serving his sentence on May 26, 2009
Served: Released December 22, 2009 after serving nearly eleven months
*T.I. has actually been in prison twice. The second prison sentence was the result of a probation violation after T.I. and his wife were arrested for drug possession. Although the drug possession charges were dropped, his probation was still revoked. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison, part of which he served in prison and part of which he served in a halfway house.
12: Robert Downey Jr.
Born: Robert John Downey Jr. on April 4, 1965 in New York, New York
Best Known For: several films including Short Cuts, Hail Caeser, Natural Born Killers, U.S. Marshalls, Wonder Boys, Gothika, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Zodiac, Tropic Thunder, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Sherlock Holmes
Date of Arrest: 1999
Offense: probation violation (missed a court ordered drug test)
Sentence: 3 years in prison
Served: released after 1 year
*Robert’s arrest information is a little sketchy for one reason – he was arrested many times and spent time in prison at least twice. It is nice to see how far he’s come though. He has been clean since 2003 and it seems he’s back on the right track.
11: Paul McCartney
Born: James Paul McCartney on June 18, 1942 in Liverpool, England
Best Known For: The Beatles, Wings and his solo work as well as some acting
Date of Arrest: January 1980
Offense: possession of marijuana
Sentence: charges were not filed
Served: held in prison for ten days at which point he was released and deported without actually being charged
10: Paris Hilton
Born: Paris Whitney Hilton on February 17, 1981 in New York City, New York
Best Known For: being rich, more or less.
Date of Arrest: February 2007
Offense: probation violation
Sentence: 45 days in prison
Served: 15 days
*Paris served time in prison twice and has been arrested numerous times. The longest stint (the one detailed above) was the result of a probation violation. She was sentenced to prison after being caught driving on a suspended licence on two separate occasions (over the span of two months), speeding and driving without headlights after dark. She was initially released from prison not long after arriving and fitted with an ankle monitor to serve out the remainder of her sentence on house arrest. The judge who sentenced her to prison, though, called her back to court and reaffirmed his original sentence, ordering her to be returned to prison.
09: Nicole Richie
Born: Nicole Camille Escovedo on September 21, 1981 in Berkeley, California
Best Known For: reality television, fashion lines
Date of Arrest: December 11, 2006
Sentence: 4 days in prison
Served: 82 minutes
*After serving her sentence (the length of which isn’t as uncommon as one would believe for a non-violent offence) Richie was placed on probation. Although she enrolled in an 18 month driver education course focused on ending drunk driving, she missed classes. Her probation was therefore extended. On December 29, 2010 her probation was terminated early after Richie’s lawyer showed the judge she had completed everything required of her to end her probation. Since that time, Nicole has turned her life around by all appearances.
08: Mike Tyson
Born: Michael Gerard Tyson on June 30, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York
Best Known For: boxing and some acting
Date of Arrest: July 1991
Sentence: 6 years in prison, 4 months probation
Served: 3 years
07: Martha Stewart
Born: Martha Helen Kostyra on August 3, 1941 in Jersey City, New Jersey
Best Known For: Martha Stewart Living, “It’s a good thing.”
Date of Arrest: June 4, 2003
Offense: securities fraud, obstruction of justice
Sentence: 5 months in federal prison followed by 2 years of supervised release including 5 months with electronic monitoring
Served: 5 months
06: Lindsay Lohan
Born: Lindsay Dee Lohan on July 2, 1986 in New York, New York
Best Known For: films such as Mean Girls, Just My Luck, The Parent Trap, Freaky Friday, Herbie: Fully Loaded as well as singing. Now more well known for her personal troubles.
Date of Arrest: multiple arrests
Offense: multiple offences
Sentence: 90 days in prison followed by 90 days of inpatient rehab
Served: 14 days in prison
*I don’t have nearly enough time to write about all of Lindsay’s legal woes and I’m not sure there is any need for me to do so anyway. Her struggles are public knowledge at this point. I still love this girl though and really hope she’s going to be able to pull herself together and get her life back on track. I would love to see her make a comeback.
05: Lil Wayne
Born: Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. on September 27, 1982 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Best Known For: songs like Fireman, Hustler Musik, Lollipop, Got Money, Drop the World and many collaborations.
Date of Arrest: July 22, 2007
Offense: criminal possession of a weapon and possession of marijuana
Sentence: 1 year in prison
Served: 8 months in prison
04: Lil Kim
Born: Kimberly Denise Jones
Best Known For: songs like How Many Licks, Get Money, Not Tonight, Lady Marmalade and acting in films like She’s All That, Zoolander, Gang of Roses, Nora’s Hair Salon and You Got Served
Date of Arrest: 2005
Offense: conspiracy, perjury
Sentence: 1 year and 1 day in prison, 3o days home detention, 3 years probation
Served: served full sentence
03: Kiefer Sutherland
Born: Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland on December 21, 1966 in London, England
Best Known For: Stand By Me, Lost Boys, Young Guns, Young Guns II, Flatliners, A Time to Kill, 24, Touch
Date of Arrest: September 25, 2007
Sentence: 48 days in prison
Served: served his full sentence
Born: Earl Simmons on December 18, 1970 in Mount Vernon, New York
Best Known For: songs like Ruff Ryders’ Anthem, What’s My Name, Party Up (Up in Here), We Right Here, Who We Be, X Gon’ Give it to Ya, Where the Hood At as well as acting in films like Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave, Never Die Alone
Date of Arrest: far too many to list
Offense: far too many to list
Sentence: several different sentences
Served: several different sentences, many served in full
*I love DMX as an artist. It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and … And Then There Was X remain two of my all time favorite rap albums to date. As a human being though, not quite sure I can really get behind him. The guy is either a magnet for trouble or is completely incapable of learning a lesson. I started to write out some of the information on his numerous arrests but it would’ve taken me weeks on end. Check out the Wiki page on the subject to get the run down on his rap sheet (since he started garnering attention as a rap artist).
01: Christian Slater
Born: Christian Michael Leonard Slater on August 18, 1969 in New York City, New York
Best Known For: acting in films like The Legend of Billie Jean, Twisted, Heathers, Gleaming the Cube, Pump up the Volume, Young Guns II, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Kuffs, Untamed Heart, True Romance and many more
Date of Arrest: 1997
Offense: assault (on his girlfriend at the time and on a police officer)
Sentence: 3 months in prison, 3 months in a residential rehab facility
Served: served full sentence
*Christian has been arrested numerous times starting in 1989 and continuing until as recently as 2005. It seems he’s now back on his feet and in a good place. Hopefully it remains that one. Christian Slater has been one of my favorites for a long time.