The soul diva pleaded guilty Wednesday to assaulting a theater manager who asked her to leave a family Christmas show starring Mickey Rooney because she'd had too much to drink.
The singer, whose scrapes with the law often overshadow her music, was given a fine and a warning to stay out of trouble by a judge who praised her for trying to clean up her act.
District Judge Peter Crabtree ordered Winehouse to pay her victim 185 pounds ($300) in costs and compensation, and handed down a conditional discharge, meaning the singer will avoid further punishment as long as she does not commit any more offenses for two years.
"(That) may be harder than a fine, because you have now got to stay on the straight and narrow for the next two years," the judge said.
"If you commit another offense you'll be hit hard and you'll be hit twice," he said.
A scrum of photographers met media-magnet Winehouse as she arrived at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of London, dressed in a white shirt and dark skirt with her beehive hair piled high.
The 26-year-old singer admitted charges of disorder and common assault during a Dec. 19 performance of the pantomime "Cinderella," in which 89-year-old Rooney played the heroine's father, Baron Hardup. The petite singer had earlier admitted drinking five vodka and cola drinks before the show.
Audiences at British pantomimes - a popular form of seasonal variety show incorporating fairy-tale plots, slapstick humor, cross-dressing and music - are traditionally rambunctious and are encouraged to shout at the stage and join in with the songs. But prosecutors said Winehouse's behavior went beyond the usual audience participation.
Prosecution lawyer Julian Vickery said Winehouse had been "raising her voice in the spirit of the pantomime" during the show at Milton Keynes Theater. She "accepted in interview that some members of the audience may have found her disorderly," and one had asked her to be quiet, he said.
The attorney said Winehouse was moved to a private box for the second half of the show, but later left the auditorium to go to the toilet and, passing the bar, asked manager Richard Pound for a double vodka and Coke. Vickery said Winehouse felt "hurt, embarrassed and patronized" when Pound suggested she have a glass of water instead and then asked her to leave because she had had too much to drink.
He said Winehouse "with no premeditation, grabbed his hair and pulled." She also was overheard muttering obscenities.
The judge said it was "obvious that alcohol played its part" in the incident. He said a medical report showed the singer had since tried to curb her drinking.
"You clearly have taken effort from this report to address your alcohol problems and any other problems you may have, so you get credit for that," the judge said.
Defense lawyer Paul Morris said Winehouse had made "huge changes" to her lifestyle.
Winehouse had been charged under her married name, Amy Civil, after reporting to a police station Dec. 23.
The singer shot to stardom with the Grammy-winning album "Back to Black" in 2006, but her music has been overshadowed by drug use, legal run-ins and a tempestuous marriage that ended in divorce last year.
Since her divorce from Blake Fielder-Civil in July, Winehouse has kept a lower profile, spending several months in St. Lucia and then moving from London's nightlife hub of Camden to the quiet suburb of Barnet.
She recently has been back in the recording studio, raising fan hopes of a follow-up to "Back to Black."
Last July she was acquitted of assaulting a fan who asked to take her picture after a charity ball. The judge said he could not be sure the blow had been deliberate.
After Wednesday's hearing, local police superintendent Simon Eatwell warned that celebrity disorder would not be allowed in Milton Keynes, a busy "new town" of 200,000 people, largely developed since the 1960s.
"Milton Keynes has a very safe nighttime economy," he said. "We will not tolerate incidents of public disorder and will always deal with them robustly."
By Jill Lawless