It’s hard to believe, but Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction celebrated its 25th anniversary in May. To celebrate a legendary film full of violence, drug use and other crimes, violent crimes lawyer Peter M. Liss has taken the time to explore the full range of crimes in Pulp Fiction.
The Theft That Kicks it Off
While this part of the story is mostly left to resolve at the end of the out-of-chronological film and actually takes place near the middle of the action when the tale is properly ordered, Pulp Fiction immediately grabs the attention of the viewer by immediately starting off with a diner robbery performed by Ringo (aka Pumpkin) and his foul-mouthed girlfriend, Yolanda (aka Honey Bunny). Since it kicks off the film, it seems like a good place to start off when recounting the crimes in the film.
Ringo and Yolanda are small-time crooks and commit far fewer crimes in Pulp Fiction than many of the other main characters, but with their history of liquor store robberies and now this diner robbery, they would still face some major prison time if caught. Just the diner robbery could leave them in prison for 19 years, given that armed robbery can carry a penalty of up to 6 years in prison, plus another 10 years under California’s 10-20-Life law. If they were caught and charged for all of their robberies though, they could easily be sent away for life under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Letting the Bodies Hit the Floor
Pulp Fiction is loaded with bloodshed and the very next scene after the intro with Ringo and Yolanda ends with Jules and Vincent killing someone who owes Marcellus money and his friend. They then (when put in chronological order) shoot and kill someone who bursts out of the bathroom and starts shooting at them. In this case, the two characters’ homicide defense lawyers could argue that they were acting in self defense, given that the man shot at them first. But this would be a pretty weak argument given that they had already killed two of the man’s friends.
Later, Vincent accidentally shoots someone riding in the back seat of the car when his gun goes off after the car hits a pothole, although this crime could at least be considered manslaughter since it was entirely accidental. As enforcers and hitmen working for Marcellus Wallce, ultimately, if either Jules or Vincent were caught, their only real defense to avoid multiple life sentences would be to flip on Marcellus and work with the police and prosecutors.
It’s worth noting that Mr. Wolfe, who helps Jules and Vincent clean up and dispose of the blood-filled car, and Jimmie, who lets them use his house for this purpose could be charged with aiding and abetting manslaughter. In fact, aiding and abetting means you will face the same sentence as if you actually committed the crime, which could be up to four years in this case.
Homicide is almost certainly the most common of all crimes in Pulp Fiction. But not everyone who kills someone in the film is actually guilty. In fact, Vincent couldn’t be tried for his crimes because he’s actually killed by Butch, who knows Vincent was there to kill him. In this case, Butch may be able to claim that he acted in self defense because while Vincent was not armed at that moment, he was a dangerous hitman with a high kill count and Butch was on his hit list. At very least, Butch would be able to claim imperfect self defense because if a jury disbelieved his life was in imminent danger at that point, it is clear that Butch believed it was.
Rigging a Boxing Match
Speaking of Butch, the reason he is on Vincent’s hit list is that he was paid to throw a boxing match and then didn’t take a dive. Butch may not have broken the law in this case (though he did break his verbal contract with Marcellus), but by bribing him to throw the match, Marcellus did. In fact, bribing a player to throw a sporting event is a crime in California that can be a misdemeanor or a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Given Marcellus’ other crimes, if he was busted for this, the prosecutor would likely try to throw the book at him and get the maximum sentence despite Marcellus’ bribery attorney’s best attempts.
Going Medieval Over Rape
Easily one of the most disturbing and memorable crimes in Pulp Fiction was Butch and Marcellus’ rape at the hands of Zed and Maynard. This is aggravated rape under California law and is punishable by up to 25 years. Butch commits his second murder in this scene by killing Maynard, but once again, he was acting in self defense by protecting Marcellus from further rape.
Marcellus then shoots Zed in the genitals, but this would not be considered self defense as Zed was already subdued at this point. His “going medieval on their ass” to punish Zed and the gimp for what they did would be considered revenge and would not be legally defensible either.
Using Drugs and Driving While High
The entire storyline between Vincent and Mia is built around Vincent’s heroin use and Mia’s cocaine use. Obviously both of these characters could be busted for being in possession of drugs and Vincent’s dealers could be charged with selling drugs, but Vincent could face a number of other charges as well. That’s because he both drives while high and, even while not high, drives despite the fact that he is clearly addicted to heroin. Cocaine and heroin possession are usually charged as a misdemeanor, but selling drugs, particularly those taken as seriously as heroin can result in felony charges though the specific sentence will vary based on the quantity and type of drug in question. As for Vincent’s driving crimes, driving under the influence of drugs or while addicted to drugs is the same as driving under the influence of alcohol.
The number of crimes in Pulp Fiction is somewhat astounding to the typical viewer, but taken individually, many people face these charges every day. If you have been accused of any crime, whether it is one listed above or not, criminal attorney Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Marco Nürnberger