Whether it gives them good or bad publicity, famous people breaking the law is always big news. Here are just ten notable celebs who've been cuffed for crimes ranging from big to small to baffling. You'd expect a brush with the law from some of them, but others are truly surprising…
1. Mark Wahlberg
In 1988, future Hollywood megastar Mark Wahlberg was arrested for 2 counts of assault. The 16-year-old ‘Marky Mark’ knocked a Vietnamese man unconscious with a wooden stick and stole his 2 crates of beer, and then punched another Vietnamese man in the face while trying to escape the police.
He peppered both victims with a series of a racial slurs, and ended up serving 45 days in jail. For years he thought he’d blinded the second man, Johnny Trinh, in one eye, but years later the victim said he lost the eye fighting alongside American forces in the Vietnam war. He also forgave Wahlberg, having no idea that his attacker had become a famous actor, and praised him for turning his life around.
2. Paris Hilton
The hotel heiress is known for her hard-partying lifestyle, but she may have gone too far on a few occasions. In 2006 she was arrested in Los Angeles for driving under the influence of alcohol and spent 23 days in jail. That same year, a judge granted a Hollywood events producer with a restraining order against Hilton after he testified that she’d assaulted and threatened him more than once.
In 2010, Las Vegas police pulled over a car occupied by Paris and her then-boyfriend and found them to be in possession of almost a gram of cocaine. After pleading guilty, she was sentenced to a year’s probation, a $2,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service, as well as being ordered to complete a drug-abuse treatment program.
3. Stephen Fry
Surely not! Though it’s hard to believe, the beloved comedian and brain box Stephen Fry has a criminal record. When he was 17, Fry left a pub accidentally picking up the coat of a family friend, and in the pocket he found a credit card. The future QI host then went what he described as ‘ape’ on a rampant spending spree for 3 months before he was arrested in Swindon.
Found guilty of credit card fraud, Fry spent 3 months in prison. He later said that the only thing that got him through the ordeal was The Times crossword, which his mum cut out of the newspaper and sent to him at the prison everyday. He fondly remembers this as ‘a wonderful act of kindness.’
4. James Brown
The ‘Godfather of Soul’ compiled a colourful list of crimes in his lifetime. The first stop on our tour of Brown’s criminal record occurred when he was just 16. Convicted of theft, he served 3 years in juvenile prison where he formed a gospel quartet.
His life and career were littered with various brushes with the law such as weapons and drug charges, but one of the most infamous incidents was the 1988 high-speed car chase that landed Brown convictions for dangerous driving, carrying an unlicensed pistol and assaulting a police officer. He served 2 years of his 6-year sentence.
Brown was also repeatedly accused of domestic violence throughout his later years. He was arrested four times for assaulting his third wife, and in 2004 was arrested after his fourth wife accused him of pushing her to ground during an argument, leaving her with arm and hip injuries.
5. Winona Ryder
On 12 December 2001, Winona Ryder entered the Saks department store in Beverley Hills, and proceeded to gather a pile of clothes and accessories. The security manager watching the video screens became suspicious and sent a security guard to keep an eye on the woman, who the manager hadn’t recognised as the Edward Scissorhands and Girl, Interrupted star.
Ryder’s pile of clothes appeared to be getting smaller, while her bags got bigger, and during one of her long and frequent trips to the fitting rooms, the female guard saw the actress cutting off security tags off of her collected items. Ryder paid for a jacket and 2 tops before walking out of the store with her swag, but was then stopped by security. She’d stolen almost $4,000 worth of designer goods, but was given 3 years probation for her trouble, and the film roles dried up as a result.
6. Tim Allen
Sorry kids, Buzz Lightyear used to be a drug dealer. Before he became the family film legend that he is today, the Toy Story star was caught by sniffer dogs and arrested at a Michigan airport in 1978 when police discovered that he was carrying 1.4 pounds of cocaine. Facing a maximum of life in prison, Allen pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges, and provided police with the names of other drug dealers, reducing his sentence to just 3 years in jail.
Since his release in 1981, Allen has turned his life around. He became successful standup comedian, starred in hit sitcom Home Improvement, and played jolly old St. Nick in Disney’s The Santa Clause trilogy, as well as winning the hearts of millions as everybody’s favourite space ranger.
7. George Michael
As well having several drug arrests under his belt, Wham singer George Michael was infamously nabbed by an undercover policeman for engaging in a ‘lewd act’ in a Los Angeles public bathroom back in 1998. Michael was slapped with a $810 fine and 80 hours of community service, but despite the embarrassing nature of the arrest has repeatedly poked fun at the incident over the years.
In 2010 he also crashed his car into a shop near his home in Hamstead, London whilst under the influence of cannabis. He was jailed for 8 weeks, given a £1,250 fine and banned from driving for 5 years. This is just one of a series of drug driving offences.
8. Christian Slater
The star of Heathers is another Hollywood stars with a very colourful record. In 1989 he was arrested in California after leading police in a car chase which resulted in Slater crashing his car into a telephone pole and kicking a police officer during his escape attempt. He was charged with evading police, assault with a deadly weapon, and driving under the influence. Amazingly he only spent 10 days in jail.
In 1994 he was arrested after trying to board a plane with a gun in his luggage, and again 3 years later for assaulting a police officer as well as his then-girlfriend whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He spent 3 months in jail and was sent to a rehab facility, but found himself in trouble with the law again in 2005 when he was accused of sexual harassment. He was charged with third degree sexual abuse, but charges were soon dropped.