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The Beatles’ Arrest History: Their Not-So-Fab Brushes With the Law

Beatles Arrest History John Lennon
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

You won’t find anything truly shocking when you dive into the Beatles‘ arrest history. There’s no bar fights or riot-starting here, and none of the hard drugs that occasionally turn up on the criminal records of their peers in the Rolling Stones. In fact, apart from one youthful and possibly accidental case of attempted arson, the only troubles the Fab Four had with the police seem to revolve around marijuana. So light up like you live in Colorado, and learn the details of the nine times the Beatles ran afoul of the law.


November 29, 1960

Paul McCartney and Pete Best
Suspicion of Arson

Well before they had the money to pay for good lawyers and such, Paul McCartney and then-drummer Pete Best were arrested on suspicion of arson. The story goes that they burned a wall while attempting to create a makeshift candle out of an unspecified object while moving out of the living space provided for them by the club owner of the Kaiserkeller club in Germany, who had just terminated their contract. The duo was deported from Germany the following day.


October 18, 1968

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Cannabis in a Binocular Case

The name Sergeant Norman Pilcher is forever infamous in the minds of Beatles fans. The head of a drug enforcement group in the U.K., Pilcher was responsible for the high-profile arrests of Donovan and members of the Rolling Stones. But on the morning of Oct. 18, 1968, Pilcher and his squad raided Ringo Starr’s apartment in London to search for illegal drugs. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were staying there temporarily while Starr was living elsewhere, but they knew that the police were out to get them and had wiped the apartment clean of any drugs weeks before the bust.

Or so they thought . . . It turns out Lennon had some items brought over from his house that weren’t checked for illegal substances -- and he didn’t think they had any incriminating evidence in them. But the police brought in drug-sniffing dogs and found 1.7 grams of cannabis in an envelope and another 12 grams in a binocular case. Game over. Ironically, Sergeant Pilcher would later serve jail time for conspiracy and perjury, and his name is kinda-sorta immortalized in 'I Am the Walrus' as “Semolina Pilchard.”

George And Pattie

March 12, 1969

George Harrison
Hashish Found in Harrison's Shoe

Not to rest on his laurels, Sergeant Pilcher next set his sights on George Harrison, and earned himself a second mention on our list of Beatles arrests. The cops raided Harrison’s home on the same day Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman. The anti-drug crew entered Harrison’s home when he was at Apple Records. His wife, Pattie Boyd, was there when Pilcher entered with his drug-sniffing dogs, Yogi and Booboo. Boyd called her husband to tell him what was going on, and when he came home, he found many of their belongings scattered throughout the house.

Harrison, a bit of a neat freak, told the cops that they didn’t have to mess up the place because he claimed he didn’t have any drugs in the house. However, the dogs supposedly sniffed out some hashish in one of his shoes. Upon hearing that news, the “quiet Beatle” reportedly said, "I'm a tidy man. I keep my socks in the sock drawer and stash in the stash box. It's not mine.” Regardless, the couple was arrested and missed McCartney’s wedding.

Paulie and the Bobbies

August 10, 1972

Paul McCartney
Arrested for Sinsemilla in Sweden

Sir Paul may have been a pot virgin in 1965 when Bob Dylan lit up a blunt with the Fab Four, but he clearly took to the curley wurley with élan after getting his first few tokes. In 1972, he and Linda were arrested for possession in Sweden.  However, McCartney didn’t serve any jail time, instead paying a fine of $2,000. The incident was reputedly one of the inspirations of the song 'Band on the Run.' Yes, it seems the country of Sweden was where the jailer man and Sailor Sam were searching everyone.


March 1973

Paul McCartney
Spank in Scotland

After dropping about two grand for a few dime bags in Sweden, Paul and Linda took up hordiculture on their farm in Scotland -- where they were cultivating more than a vegetarian lifestyle. Seems McCartney's fans liked to send him seeds because they knew how much he liked planting things. The police found a few cannabis plants that took root and grew like, um, weeds on his property. After McCartney was hauled into court to explain himself, the judge bought his defense that he didn't know what kind of seeds he planted, since he received so many in the mail. McCartney wrote a check for the fine of $175 and was free to resume his farming -- sans cannabis seeds, of course.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The McCartneys

March 2, 1975

Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney
Linda Takes the Fall in L.A.

After getting let off with a kind of “Now don’t do that again” warning in Scotland for their experiments in farming, one would think that Paul and Linda had learned their lesson when it came to cannabis. Nope. The couple was busted in L.A. for possession in 1975 after running a red light in their primo 1974 Lincoln Continental. But this time Linda took the fall and was arrested. The charges were eventually dropped, and the McCartneys paid yet another fine for possession. Then again, what's a small fee mean when you have millions -- and love pot?

Paul McCartney on his Farm

January 16, 1980

Paul McCartney
Paul Takes Jay Tokenstein to Japan

Welcome to Japan, Paul! Sweden, Scotland and the United States may have been more lenient on the McCartneys when it came to their love of weed, but it seems Paul didn’t understand Japanese cops. Busted for more than 200 grams of pot upon his arrival for a tour with Wings, McCartney spent nine days in the pokey for a self-admitted stupid act. After Japanese court officials said that he had essentially paid his debt with jail time, they let him go . . . but kept the chronic.

Paul And Linda McCartney

January 16, 1984

Paul and Linda McCartney
The Brown Frown in Barbados

Barbados is a beautiful island. The warm sun, the blue waters, the laid-back vibe -- what would a few puffs off a pipe of peace do to hurt anyone? Maybe that was the thinking of Paul and Linda after they bought some skunk on a Barbados beach. In a strange coincidence, the arrest in Barbados was exactly four years to the date of his arrest in Tokyo. Barbados officials fined and released the famous couple, and they were able to travel back to the U.K. without spending any time in jail this time.

Linda and Paul…Wedding Day

January 17, 1984

Paul and Linda McCartney
An Eighth in England

It almost feels like cheating to include the following day's events on our list of Beatles arrests, but while heading for the safety of home in jolly old England following the previous arrest, the McCartneys were instead promptly greeted by police officers. Linda was arrested at Heathrow Airport for the pot conviction in Barbados. While Mrs. McCartney was hauled away to the police station, Paul was able to get some good digs in about why cannabis use isn’t as dangerous as other legal drug use during a “walk and talk” interview with the press.


Next: The Rolling Stones' Arrest History

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