What Petty Crimes Can You Go to Jail for the Longest if You Refuse to Defend Yourself or Pay a Fine?

This is a U.S. based question but anyone from another country is free to answer. I know it is also quite state dependent because most of our laws are.

Let’s say you are a homeless person or simply want to pull a stunt to write a book about your experience. What small crime could you commit and then stay in jail as long as possible if you wanted to? From what I have read, a lot of state laws read something like ‘a $1000 fine or not more than one year in jail’ or something equally ridiculous. Some of these are for very minor crimes. What if I claimed that I had no money, no friends, didn’t want to defend myself at all even with a state given lawyer and I wanted the highest penalty possible for the smallest crime.

For the record, I tried a minor version of this once. The police asked me if I wanted to be handcuffed and taken to jail in protective custody (no arrest) or just walk a block home because I didn’t do anything wrong. I chose the handcuffs and jail overnight much to their surprise just because I wanted to know what it felt like to be in jail. It sucked just like they say it does so I don’t have any plans to try this experiment myself.

You can find youself in county lockup for myriad of bullshit charges. you then refuse probation and do the time (up to one year). while you are in you are free to fuck you life by becoming violent and adding aditional charges/cases that could land you in a state facility. Violence is not the only way to get there. Have fun.

Contempt of court can keep you in jail for life if you refuse to kowtow to the judge.

Can. The real-world record is only 14 years.

I read an article once about a seriously mentally ill woman who assaulted a stranger due to her illness. Everytime she was about to get out the police & courts would find a way to transfer her and get her to stay in prison. Their argument was that once out, she’d just stop taking her meds and end up sliding downhill again.

My impression was she’d been in jail for a few years on a minor charge. No idea how they legally did it though.

Sitting in the study lounges at UCLA can get you a misdemeanor conviction if you aren’t a student, staff, or faculty member, resulting in six months’ jail IIRC. I doubt anyone would actually get a jail sentence unless they kept on doing it, and getting caught.

You wouldn’t expect it given the location of the campus, but they did use to have some problems with vagrants which I suppose is why they cracked down.

In Minnesota (and many US states) you can’t go to jail for longer than a year. If you are sentenced to more than a year you go to a state prison instead of a county jail.

How are you defining “petty crime”? If you mean misdemeanors, in most jurisdictions you can’t be locked up for more than a year for a misdemeanor, by definition: Any crime that can carry a sentence longer than that is a felony.

Wouldn’t sticking her in a mental ward make more sense than keeping her in prison with people who could likely cause her more distress?

I’d have to double check for various states, but it’s pretty typical for offenses to be defined in terms of the possible amount of imprisonment. A true “petty offense” is one for which no jail time is possible. A misdemeanor is an offense for which imprisonment can be no more that a year, and a felony is any offense for which the imprisonment can be more. It’s true that for civil contempt of court, the court can keep a person jailed until he or she complies with whatever the order is. Think of a reporter under subpoena refusing to give up his or her sources.

You can only have somebody forcibly committed if you can prove they are a threat to themself or others. For everything you want to know about being committed against your will, ask AHunter3. Seriously, the man has really studied up on the subject.

Short version- It’s damn hard to get somebody committed, and apparently easy to keep getting somebody jailed on petty charges.