Lohan's arraignment on a charge that she stole a $2,500 necklace from an upscale jeweler wasn't the first time a judge threatened to throw the troubled starlet in jail. But it was the first time a judge wielded enough power to keep her locked up for a long time.
"You're in a different situation now that a felony has been filed," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Keith Schwartz said after the actress pleaded not guilty Wednesday.
"Everybody else has to follow the law," Schwartz said, noting that he was giving the actress a tamer version of a lecture he'd delivered to her attorney behind closed doors and away from the dozens of assembled reporters.
"You're no different than anyone else. So please, don't push your luck."
Testing the limits - in the courtroom rather than the big screen - has been Lohan's calling card in recent months.
She has arrived late to some hearings on a 2007 drunken driving case, and appeared at one with an expletive painted on her fingernails.
Judges sent her to jail twice last year and twice to rehab as well, but her time in custody was shortened each time by overcrowding and the fact that she was being held on misdemeanor charges and bail had to be set.
During her recent three month stay in rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic, Lohan was accused of battery on a worker. Prosecutors are still considering whether to file charges.
The necklace theft accusation came less than three weeks after Lohan's discharge from Betty Ford.
In both cases, Lohan's attorney has denied wrongdoing by the actress.
Lohan, 24, arrived early for Wednesday's hearing, wearing a thigh-high white dress and sunglasses. She said she understood Schwartz's comments before being led away by deputies to be booked.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore described her as cooperative during the hourlong process, during which a DNA sample was taken.
The "Mean Girls" star is due back in court on Feb. 23, an important hearing in which Lohan could opt to end the case early. Her attorney, Shawn Chapman Holley, indicated Wednesday that the actress was interested in an early disposition program if the terms are right.
That would prevent a trial, and a preliminary hearing during which evidence against Lohan would be presented, but also likely mean that she would remain under court scrutiny for some time.
Her DUI probation, which Schwartz revoked Wednesday, is due to end in August.
Even if Lohan is able to put her court troubles behind her, her career prospects remain unclear. Once a star of Disney films, Lohan has all but disappeared from the big screen since 2007. She had a small part in last year's "Machete," but lost her role as porn star Linda Lovelace in a biopic while at Betty Ford.
For now Lohan's fame remains tied to her courthouse appearances, which for months have seemed less like cameos and more like her defining role.