Don't Do The Crime If You Can't Do The Time
"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."
"You deserve this punishment, so don't complain."
People use this expression to respond to others who
complain about their punishment. This expression
also encourages people to avoid bad behavior.
Mike: "Oh, no. I got a ticket!"
John: "I told you we had to hurry before the meter ran out."
Mike: "Fifty buck?! What the hell?!"
John: "Hey, man, don't do the crime if you can't do the time."
1. Literature Reference: Author George Saunders references this idiom in a 2010 short story for The New Yorker ("Escape from Spiderhead") to describe the protagonist's involvement in a prison experiment: "'Jeff,' Abnesti said, irritated, as if trying to remind me that I was here not by choice but because I had done my crime and was in the process of doing my time."
2. Media Reference #1: Journalist Randy Cohen references this expression in a March 11th, 2010 article for The New York Times ("Time Bandits") to advise a reader to return a library book: "The injunction 'Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time' is specious. It should be “Don’t do the crime.” The public library is such a splendid institution; you should honor what I suspect you know to be the intent of this rule rather than embrace some sort of money-talks philosophy." (https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/magazine/14FOB-ethicist-t.html)
3. Media Reference #2: "Junior journalist" Damon Weaver uses this expression in a September 8th, 2009 NPR piece ("Sixth Grader Waits For Obama's Speech To Kids") to comment on crime in his neighborhood: "Well, I think that people can speak more and go to the court and say I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, and they can help those people get in jail because they do bad things, and they deserve it. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."(https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112636493) (At 2 minutes and 54 seconds into the broadcast.)
4. Media Reference #3: This expression entered English through a 1975 song by Morgan Ames and Dave Grusin, "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow." Although performed by several artists, Sammy Davis Jr.'s 1976 rendition is best known as it became the theme song for the popular television series Baretta: "Don't go to bed, with no price on your head. No, no, don't do it. Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time. Yeah, don't do it. And keep your eye on the sparrow, when the going gets narrow." (At 18 seconds into the song.)
5. Media Reference #4: Miranda May's character of "Lou Hockhauser" references this expression in season 4, episode 3 of the television series Bunk'd ("Yes, Lies and Tower Escape") to respond to a character who complains of her punishment: "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Actually, don't do the crime, even if you can do the time. New camp policy, no crime!"
(At 23 minutes and 11 seconds into the episode. Originally aired July 4th, 2019.)