Absolutely 'Mildest' Thing That You Can Get Non-Trivial Jail Time For

Inspired by this thread.

While acknowledging that all offenses that merit non-trivial jail time (defined here as greater than a two weeks or so) are serious to some degree, I think we can agree that some offenses are less heinous than others. For example, I’d rate Martha Stewart’s insider trading as less reprehensible than animal cruelty, and I’d (hesitantly) rate the animal cruelty as less serious than a repeat DUI.

So, what are some of the milder offenses that can get one enough jail time for the mail to pile up? I know the white-collar stuff is the first thing that springs to mind, but I do hope we can collectively come up with some examples more accessible to the financial rank and file.

I had a client get four years for flying [drug] money out of the country in his private jet.

Contempt of court.

Violations of the Endangered Species Act can result in up to a year in jail (and/or a fine of up to $50,000). Specific violations that potentially carry the maximum statutory penalty for the first offense include:

  • Killing, wounding, injuring, hunting, or capturing an member of an endangered species;
  • Significant habitat modification or degradation;
  • Possess, deliver, carry, transport, sell or ship illegally taken threatened or endangered species in interstate or foreign commerce
  • Fail to comply with the terms and conditions of an incidental take permit

Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds’ former trainer, appears to have spent a total of well over a year in federal prison on various contempt of court charges, for refusing to testify in Bonds’ case.

1968 Gun Control Act and the 1934 National Firearms Act, and the BATFE’s interpretation of constructive intent…

Some really trivial things can get you a Federal Felony conviction and major jail time.

A question like this is often going to rest on a subjective consideration of what “mild” means.

You can do pretty serious time for cultivating or transporting certain quantities of marijuana. I think marijuana should be completely legal, so i consider that a pretty mild offense.

Carefully editing a video so that it looks like you’re singing sexy songs to kids will get you 60 days.

Five years mandatory minimum in Federal Court for 100 plants or more.

Can’t you get jail time for not paying traffic fines or parking tickets?

Snapping a nude pic of your baby in the bathtub can get you rung up on child porn charges.

Any teenage girl in your neighborhood can find herself rung up on child porn charges for snapping a naughty pic of herself and texting it to her boyfriend.

How much time do you get for stealing mail? Is it worse than I think because it’s a federal offense?

Well, this is going to be pretty subjective. For instance, I don’t think repeat DUI is very mild at all. After all, about the same number of innocent people are killed each year by drunk drivers as were killed in the US by terrorists over the entire last 15 years.

Frankly, I also don’t think white collar crime is mild, either. I mean, is hotwiring a car in order to take a joyride really worse than stealing someone’s retirement savings in order to get a bigger yacht?

I agree on the DUI, though I think it’s arguable that drunk drivers aren’t as extreme offenders as someone like Joel Rifkin. Maybe I’m wrong.

I’d agree with your second statement, too. Hotwiring a car for a joyride is something I’d consider relatively mild, certainly more mild than operating a Ponzi scheme that cost people thousands of dollars. I WOULD argue that something like insider trading is about on a par with said joyriding, however.

A friend served 3 years of a 5 (to 7?) year sentence, and he did nothing.

He did confess to a crime a friend of his actually did, though. For his friend, the conviction would have been strike three and a life term. (No, I was not involved in any way)

Depending on state law, a relatively minor felony conviction (like retail theft) can net someone a pretty harsh mandatory minimum if they have prior convictions (3 strikes law).

For instance?

I know this is technically true, but has it happened? I’m at work, and there’s no way I’m googling “child porn”.

I was in the court room when a man was sentenced to 40 years for shoplifting a carton of cigarettes. He had been sentenced under the habitual offender guidelines or whatever they were calling it then.

It has happened.

And as for the phone pix, Sexting conviction. Google will give you pages of results for the same terms.

I believe there was a case out of Georgia(?) where a high school kid was imprisoned for consensual sex with his girlfriend. Because of their relative ages it was statutory rape. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the details or dig up a cite right now - maybe someone else remembers?