These days, it’s no longer shocking to hear that celebrities have been arrested and face imprisonment for their many and varied wrongdoings. Whether one-time child star Lindsay Lohan is shoplifting or bad boy Chris Brown is on trial for domestic violence, or housewife icon Martha Stewart is locked up for insider trading, most stars seem set on breaking the law.
Celebrities aren’t immune to the force of the law, and their money and status often put stars in positions where illegal temptations are all too common. In these cases, their celebrity can be more of a hindrance than a help: Some A-listers have been publicly named and shamed, having been locked up by an overzealous cop.
America’s justice system notoriously takes liberties with imprisonment, suffering from one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the western world. And so, it’s worth noting that not all celebrities whose faces ended up in a mugshot were hardened criminals.
You’ll be surprised to learn about these 18 public figures who were put behind bars for a variety of reasons, some shocking and some downright unbelievable.
18. Yasmine Bleeth
Beauty certainly isn’t everything, especially when you’ve had ‘one too many.’
You may remember former Baywatch babe Yasmine Bleeth. Yasmine was also the beauty that Chandler and Joey lusted after on the show Friends. She was arrested for drugs possession and driving while impaired in 2001. She actually drove her car into the median on Interstate 94 near Detroit, Michigan.
Police found cocaine in the car, and a further search of her hotel room found more drugs.
Following a plea bargain, the charges for this beach beauty were reduced. Yasmine ended up only spending a single night in jail, and was sentenced to two years’ probation and 100 hours of community service.
17. Jenelle Evans
Not exactly a model mother, Jenelle Evans from the reality show Teen Mom 2, has experienced numerous run-ins with the law. She has been in and out of jail more times than most could count.
In April 2013, when Evans was just 21-years-old, she was arrested in North Carolina and charged with heroin possession and assaulting her husband, Courtland Rogers. Tabloids claimed that when cops searched her house, they also found illegal Percocet pills and drug paraphernalia.
Jenelle Evans’ husband is no angel either. Courtland Rogers was also arrested and charged with assaulting Jenelle during a domestic dispute.
16. Farrah Abraham
And there was even more drama from the set of Teen Mom 2. Farrah Abraham, the teen mother turned adult star, was arrested on DUI charges in Omaha, Nebraska, early in March 2013.
Also 21 at the time, Farrah was pulled over after authorities observed reckless driving. Abraham allegedly failed a sobriety test and had a blood alcohol count that was around twice the legal limit.
15. David Cassidy
Child stars almost always seem to experience legal troubles when they become adults. Singer and actor David Cassidy, former teen idol from the TV show The Partridge Family, seems to have joined the ranks of the curses former child stars.
David was arrested in August of 2013 on DUI charges. According to reports, Cassidy was driving in upstate New York and failed a field sobriety test. He was taken to jail.
And worse yet, the charges against Cassidy are felonies, because he also had a DUI in Florida.
14. Josh Brolin
Actor Josh Brolin’s rugged features and a natural charm couldn’t save him from being arrested in Southern California. Josh kicked off 2013 with a bang by being arrested on public intoxication charges in Santa Monica, California, on New Year’s Day.
Brolin was taken into custody and jailed for several hours. Days after the arrest, Brolin explained that he was out doing what everyone else was doing on New Year’s Eve — partying like crazy. He thought the police should understand.
Charges were reduced, as they are in most similar cases for celebrities, and Brolin was fined $250 on misdemeanor charges.
Musicians are not immune to jail time and popular rapper and recording artist T.I. is no exception. T.I. has served two terms in county jail, twice for probation violations and a federal prison bid for a weapons charge.
While serving 11 months in federal prison for drug possession, T.I. released his seventh studio album in 2010. In fact, this bad boy rapper received preferential treatment while incarcerated, including the privilege of using prison phones and email liberally.
Fans of T.I. will tell you that he’s not all bad. After being released, T.I. was able to convince Joshua Starks, a 24-year-old suicidal man in Atlanta, not to jump from a 22-story building.
12. Bruno Mars
In 2010, singer and songwriter Bruno Mars was busted and charged with felony drug possession in Las Vegas. He was alleged to have been in possession of 2.6 grams of cocaine after he played a show at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Mars reportedly admitted to his bad behavior, telling the guard he “did a foolish thing and has never used drugs before.”
The star could have faced four years in jail. Eventually, Bruno pled guilty to drug possession charges, paid a fine and served one year of probation.
The most bizarre part of this arrest was the wide smile mugshot Bruno took when booked at the police station. When asked why he was grinning, Mars couldn’t quite say. “I have no idea,” he responded, laughing. “It was a picture.”
11. Christian Slater
Christian Slater has appeared in big budget movies including Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. But in 1997 Christian appeared to be going through some tough times that included drug problems. In fact, he has a bit of a lengthy arrest sheet:
In 1989, Slater was arrested for drunk driving and assault. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
In 1994, he was arrested when he tried to board a commercial plane with a gun in his luggage.
Most seriously, in 1997, Slater was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend and a police officer while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He spent over 100 days in a rehabilitation facility while out on bail and then was sentenced to a three-month term in jail followed by three months in a residential rehab center.
In 2005, Slater was arrested in New York, after a video recorded him apparently sexually harassing a woman on the street.
But apparently for Slater, being imprisoned wasn’t a negative experience. In a 2011 interview, he explained, “Jail was a result of me not taking time for myself, so I was forced to take some time for myself. It was necessary for me. When you’re going down that path, you either kill yourself or you’re forced to take time out.”
10. Zsa Zsa Gabor
Hungarian born Zsa Zsa Gabor considered herself a socialite and actress. Many would say she’s best known for having nine husbands.
Her current spouse, Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, has been seen frequently on TMZ and has been accused of not allowing family and friends to visit the now disabled Zsa Zsa at her home.
In 1990, Ms. Gabor became famous for her encounter with a cop.
The patrolman who pulled her over found she was had no valid driver’s license, was driving an unregistered vehicle and had an open alcohol container in her $215,000 Rolls Royce. Zsa Zsa spent 72 hours in jail after she was convicted of slapping a Beverly Hills police officer.
The uproarious trial was watched closely and covered by worldwide broadcasters in a time without social media. Ask your parent (or grandparents).
9. Tom Sizemore
Actor Tom Sizemore’s first encounter with the prison system came after he assaulted his then girlfriend Heidi “Madam Hollywood” Fleiss.
Sizemore was back in court in 2007 for violating his probation, this time in connection with drugs charges. He was sentenced to 16 months. Shortly after his release, the actor was under suspicion for stealing cell phones from Verizon.
8. Tim Allen
Tim Allen may be laughing now, but when he was caught with over a pound of cocaine, he was serious enough in 1978 to plead guilty of drug trafficking charges.
Allen was charged with a felony and quickly rolled over, giving up the names of dealers in exchange for a lighter sentence. Allen could have faced life imprisonment, but his plea bargain sentenced him to 28 months.
The public only knows Tim Allen as a superstar comedian since he turned his life around. Allen is most recognized for his role on the sitcom, Home Improvement, and for his voiceover work (Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story). Since 2011, he has starred as Mike Baxter in the ABC comedy Last Man Standing.
7. Ozzy Osbourne
No one would be shocked to learn that Ozzy Osbourne spent time in prison. But what’s surprising is what he was actually arrested for.
Ozzy Osbourne served time for burglary.
In 1966 Ozzy was arrested for the theft of £25’s worth of items from a local store in England. Ozzy actually stole from the same place three times and wore a thumbless glove on the third occasion, leaving prints all over the store.
He was initially fined £40 but didn’t have the money, and his father wouldn’t lend it to him. So he was sentenced to three months in an English prison.
Of course, as a recovered drug addict he has experienced numerous brushes with the law throughout his life. Ozzy Osbourne has been arrested several times, not just for drug related incidents, but also for public urination and public intoxication.
6. James Brown
Considered to be “The Godfather of Soul,” James Brown experienced some unwanted media attention in 1988.
During a seminar in Georgia, James Brown entered the room armed with a shotgun and a pistol. After clearing the area, he sped off in a car with the police in pursuit. Brown drove into South Carolina and then back again into Georgia. Three of the tires on his car were shot out, but he kept on driving on the rims, until he ended up in a ditch.
Brown later said that he felt threatened by white officers. The judge sentenced him to six and a half years for aggravated assault and failing to stop for a police officer.
He was released three years later and kept out of trouble until 1998. For the remainder of his life, Brown was repeatedly arrested for domestic violence.
At the age of 73, the great James Brown died from congestive heart failure resulting from complications of pneumonia.
5. Matthew McConaughey
With his reputation as a young, hard-nosed rebel, it’s easy to believe that in 1999 Matthew McConaughey was arrested and sent to jail for resisting arrest and smoking marijuana while playing bongo drums too loudly in his home.
The police went around to his house at 3:00 am following a neighbor’s complaint that he was engaging in music that was too loud for the early hours of the morning.
In response, McConaughey claimed the police entered the property illegally and used excessive force in arresting him. But the free spirit had a good time during his short incarceration; he later recalled how he got his cell mates to join him in a sing along.
4. Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are best known as members of the hard living rock group, The Rolling Stones.
In 1967, the police raided the home of Keith Richards in England. They found Jagger and Richards along with Marianne Faithfull wrapped in a fur rug. The police claimed that Faithfull’s lack of inhibition meant that she had to be on drugs.
During the investigation, it was discovered that Marianne Faithfull had brought illegal amphetamines into the United Kingdom. But when questioned, chivalrous Jagger said they were his, taking the full rap for Marianne.
Jagger was sent to Brixton Prison, but only endured three nights of a three month sentence due to public protest.
Richards was charged with allowing drugs to be taken inside his home and received a 12 month jail term. However, he spent only one night in prison before being released on bail and later dismissed on appeal.
3. Paul McCartney
Many fans consider Paul McCartney to be the most wholesome member of The Beatles, but he’s still a supporter of legalizing marijuana.
Paul’s marijuana use is rumored to have begun in 1964 when Bob Dylan introduced the four Beatles to marijuana in a New York hotel.
Sixteen years later, in 1980, McCartney spent over a week in jail when he was caught with drugs at Tokyo airport. He was charged with trying to bring half a pound of marijuana into Japan. He was soon visited by the British vice-consul, who informed him that the sentence could be up to eight years. “My first night was the worst,” McCartney said. “I couldn’t sleep. I was frightened about the possibility of not seeing my family for years.”
McCartney, or “Inmate #22” as he was known by prison guards, actually served less than two weeks.
None of this harmed McCartney’s status as a music icon. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 1999 and continues to tour worldwide to sell out arenas.
2. Frank Sinatra
Sinatra is considered to be one of the greatest singers in the world, with a career beginning in the 1940s. But before he became what we call a “superstar,” Mr. Sinatra was arrested and jailed for something we could never imagine today.
Sinatra’s alleged personal and professional links with organized crime were not cause for his incarceration. Rather, in 1938, in his home state of New Jersey, Frank Sinatra was detained for having an affair with a married woman. This was illegal at the time.
The actual charge was seduction, and later that year he was brought up on charges of adultery. Both cases were eventually dismissed.
Neither scandal seems to have harmed his legacy. At the time of his death at the age of 82, Frank Sinatra’s estate was said to be worth $100 million and his records are still popular today.
1. Bill Gates
Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world and seems like the consummate nerd who’d never get into trouble. But long ago, he was just another one of us, cruising the boulevard in his cool car. But unlike many of us, Gates was incarcerated after one of his three traffic arrests.
In 1975, Bill Gates was arrested for speeding and driving without a license.
He was also arrested in Albuquerque in 1977 for running a stop sign and driving without a license. This is the incident that landed him in the slammer for a short time.
In 1989, he was arrested for suspicion of driving drunk, but the charges were later reduced. Maybe crime doesn’t pay, but it pays to have money.