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Creative Sentencing: Ten Unusual Punishments

We’ve all heard the adage: “Do the crime, do the time.” But what if the judge has some other punishment in mind, like carrying an embarrassing sign, working in a morgue, or getting married? It’s not uncommon for judges to try and send a message with a creative sentence, especially when it’s a condition of probation, community service or part of a plea deal. Still, creative sentencing is not without controversy. Occasionally it can go too far and violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishments.

Check out these ten unconventional punishments handed down by judges throughout the country in the past decade. What do you think – are they cruel and unusual or just creative?

1. This Sentence Stinks.

Painseville, Ohio: Lake County Judge Michael Cicconetti has been making headlines for years doling out unusual punishments for first-time offenders. In July 2018, the judge ordered an 18-year-old man who knocked over a porta-potty in a park to scoop manure at a local fair and parade. “You act like an animal, you’re going to take care of animals,” Cicconettie told the defendant, who was convicted of criminal mischief, according to Fox 8 Cleveland. “You can go (to the Lake County Fair) with the horses and goats and cows and pigs and sheep and after the fair you can shovel out their crap…”


2. Stiff a Cabbie, Take a Hike.

Painseville, Ohio: Here’s another one by Judge Michael Cicconetti. In August 2015, he gave an 18-year-old woman a choice between 30 days in jail or walking 30 miles after she didn’t pay a cab driver for a 30-mile trip, according to an ABC News story. She decided to take the hike, which was a condition of her probation for theft.

3. Girlfriend Worth Fighting For? Marry Her or Go to Jail.

Tyler, Texas: In August 2015, Smith County Judge Randall Rogers gave a defendant a choice after getting into a fight with his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend:  marry the girlfriend or spend 15 days in county lock-up. The east Texas man opted to get hitched, which was a condition of his probation for assault, along with counseling and writing bible verses, according to story on Fox News.

4. No Cellphone for Driver Who Killed Cyclist

Lansing, Michigan: In June 2015, Clinton County Judge Stewart McDonald ordered a motorist to go without a cellphone for two years after she struck and killed a bicyclist during a distracted driving incident. USA Today reported that the victim’s husband actually suggested the unusual punishment, which was part of a sentence that also included two years of probation and 90 days in jail.

5. Man Accused In Domestic Case Is Ordered to Take Wife on a Date

Fort Lauderdale, Florida: When Judge John “Jay” Hurley learned a defendant’s domestic violence charge stemmed from a martial spat for not acknowledging his wife’s birthday, he decided creative sentencing was in order. Instead of locking up the hubby or setting a bond, the judge ordered the husband to buy flowers and a Birthday card and then take his wife to Red Lobster and bowling, activities she told the judge she enjoyed, according to the Sun Sentinel. The judge also ordered the couple to start seeing a marriage counselor within a week.

6. Judge Orders Man to Write ‘Boys Do Not Hit Girls’ 5,000 Times

Billings, Montana: Just before Christmas in 2013, District Judge G. Todd Baugh ordered a man convicted of punching his girlfriend to write “Boys do not hit girls” 5,000 times. The LA Times reported that the writing assignment was in addition to six months in jail for misdemeanor assault and a $3,800 fine to pay for the woman’s medical bills. The judge ordered the defendant to mail him his 5000 sentences from behind bars.

7. Drunk Driver Must Spend Holidays in Jail for Deadly Crash

Fort Worth, Texas: In April 2011, unconventional probation conditions were ordered for a Texas man who drove drunk and caused a wreck that killed a woman. As a condition of his 10-year probated sentence, which was part of a plea deal worked out by the prosecutor and defense, the defendant must wear a bracelet with the woman’s name on it; reimburse her mother $22,271.46 in funeral expenses; and spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, and the dates of victim’s birth and death in the county jail for the next ten years, according to a story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

8. Lindsay Lohan Ordered to Work at Morgue

Los Angeles, California: In 2011, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner ordered actress Lindsay Lohan to perform 16 hours of janitorial duty at the L.A. County morgue each week until a hearing could be held to determine whether she violated her probation for shoplifting, reported the LA Times.

9. Houston Couple Sentenced to Six Years of Shaming

Houston, Texas: In 2010, a Harris County Judge Kevin Fine ordered a couple who stole a quarter million dollars from a crime victims fund to post a sign in front of their house that read: “The occupants of this residence, Daniel and Eloise Mireles, are convicted thieves.” The pair was also ordered to hold a sign for five hours a day, every weekend for six years, at the busiest intersection in Houston that said: “I am a thief. I stole $250,000 from a Harris County crime victims fund.”  The public shaming was on top of restitution and jail time.

10. Judge Orders Vandals to Lead Donkey Through Town, Display ‘Jackass’ Sign.

Painseville, Ohio: And another one by Judge Michael Cicconetti. In 2003, the judge ordered two 19-year-olds who vandalized a statue of baby Jesus from a church’s nativity scene to march through town with a donkey from a petting zoo and a sign that read: “Sorry for the Jackass offense,” according to My Plainview. After the 30-minute march, they went with police to start serving a 45-day jail sentence. They were also ordered to replace the statue.


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