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Why Did David Carradine Go To Prison?

David Carradine was an American actor best known for playing Caine in the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu”. However, behind his successful acting career, Carradine led a troubled personal life involving substance abuse and run-ins with the law. In 1974, he was arrested and convicted on charges of attempted burglary and malicious mischief, resulting in a 90-day jail sentence. This article will examine Carradine’s criminal history and the events that led to his imprisonment in the 1970s.

David Carradine’s Early Life and Acting Career

David Carradine was born in 1936 in Hollywood, California. His father was actor John Carradine, and his brothers Keith and Robert also went on to become actors. Carradine dropped out of school at 15 and enlisted in the army for a time before returning to pursue acting. He appeared in small roles on TV and in films in the 1960s before landing his career-defining role on “Kung Fu” in 1972. The series about a Shaolin monk in the Wild West catapulted Carradine to fame. However, as his star was rising, the actor was struggling with substance abuse issues and brushes with the law.

History of Substance Abuse and Legal Troubles

Even before reaching stardom, Carradine had issues with substance misuse and criminal offenses:

  • 1960s – Multiple arrests for marijuana and drug possession
  • Late 1960s – Spent time in jail for stealing items from a hardware store
  • 1972 – Arrested for assaulting a security guard while under the influence of drugs/alcohol
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As “Kung Fu” propelled his career upward in the early 1970s, his demons continued to plague him. The pressure of fame and ongoing addiction issues caused further legal troubles for the actor during this period.

The Attempted Burglary and Malicious Mischief Charges

In October 1974, a drunk and high Carradine was arrested after attempting to break into a woman’s Marina del Rey apartment. Earlier that evening, he had accosted the woman, her roommate, and a neighbor while they were having a small party. The women asked him to leave, but he returned later in the night and tried to force his way into the apartment.

Police apprehended Carradine as he was trying to climb the balcony. He was charged with attempted burglary and malicious mischief for damaging the apartment door and balcony railing in his failed break-in effort. With his previous drug-related arrests, the judge showed little leniency and sentenced the actor to 90 days in jail along with 2 years of probation.

Life in Prison and Aftermath

Carradine served his 90-day sentence at the honor farm at Castaic Correctional Facility. While incarcerated, he performed manual labor and reflected on the mistakes that led him there. In interviews after his release, he discussed coming to terms with his substance abuse problems in prison. By confronting his addictions and criminal behavior, Carradine hoped to change his life’s trajectory.

However, he continued to struggle with alcoholism and arrests in the years following despite this introspection while jailed. In 1977, he was again convicted of drug possession and reckless driving. Despite ongoing legal and substance abuse troubles, Carradine continued finding acting work and remained a famous star until his shocking death in 2009 at age 72. His prison time failed to deter him from further brushes with the law but represented one early chapter in his troubled life story.

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Timeline of David Carradine’s Convictions and Jail Time

October 1974Attempted burglary and malicious mischief90 days in jail
November 1977Reckless driving and drug possession2 years probation

Quotes on David Carradine’s Conviction and Time in Prison

“I think going to jail shocked David and made him realize he was on a dangerous course. But the sobering experience didn’t deter his substance struggles for long.” – Keith Carradine, David’s brother

“He told me the attempted burglary charge was a wake-up call that he had gone too far. The months in jail forced David to look inward and confront his demons.” – Anonymous friend

“Even as David achieved stardom, he was saddled with addictions and poor choices that repeatedly got him into legal troubles. His 90 days in jail was an early consequence but far from the only one.” – Biographer Joe Stambler

“For a famous actor at the height of his career, doing hard time marked a sharp fall from grace. I think part of David longed to prove he could change, but the prisons of addiction are not easily escaped.”- Barbara Hershey, actress and former partner

“He made regrettable mistakes that landed him behind bars, but David’s warmth and humor made it hard to hold them against him. His stint in prison was a footnote in a life more defined by his talents.” – Jeff Cooper, co-star on “Kung Fu”

Why was David Carradine arrested in 1974?

Carradine was arrested in 1974 for attempting to break into a woman’s apartment while intoxicated. He was charged with attempted burglary and malicious mischief for damaging her door and balcony.

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Where did David Carradine serve his prison sentence?

Carradine served 90 days at the Castaic Correctional Facility’s honor farm, where he performed manual labor.

How long was David Carradine in jail for the 1974 charges?

Carradine was sentenced to 90 days in jail along with 2 years probation for the attempted burglary and malicious mischief charges.

Did going to jail impact David Carradine’s substance abuse issues?

By his own account, doing jail time led Carradine to reflect on his addictions and criminal behavior. However, he continued to struggle with alcoholism and legal troubles after being released.

Was the 1974 case the only time Carradine was convicted and jailed?

No, in 1977 he was again convicted on charges of drug possession and reckless driving, receiving 2 years probation. But the 1974 charges marked his only significant jail sentence.


In the 1970s, at the height of his fame, David Carradine served a 90-day jail sentence that represented a low point in his turbulent life journey. Though he expressed a desire to change after doing his time, the actor continued facing addiction issues, legal troubles, and brushes with the criminal justice system until his shocking death in 2009. Carradine’s prison stint provides insight into both the talents and demons of this complex and troubled star. While brief, his incarceration marked an important early chapter in his storied acting career and battle with substance abuse. Despite his professional successes, the legal consequences of Carradine’s addictions would pursue him until the end.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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