People can do a lot of hurtful things when suffering from extreme grief, but few of them end up taking a whole town captive like Wanda Maximov does in WandaVision. But is Wanda guilty of a crime for her actions on the show, or is she yet another victim of her own overwhelming power? While it should go without saying, this article is going to be SPOILER heavy, so bookmark this one for later if you haven’t seen the whole show yet.
False Imprisonment of a Whole Town
The first, and most obvious, criminal act Wanda could be accused of would be false imprisonment. When a whole town full of people not only can’t leave the city limits or get in touch with their loved ones, but even more disturbingly, move or act on their own, that’s certainly not ok. While attorney Peter Liss operates in California, and not New Jersey, the false imprisonment law for both states is largely the same, coming down to the practice of illegally restraining someone in a way that interferes with his or her liberty.
In this case, there’s no denying that the residents of Westview were undoubtedly victims of false imprisonment. In fact, Wanda would face around 3,900 counts of false imprisonment for restraining the bodies and minds of not just the 3,892 residents of the town, but also numerous S.W.O.R.D. agents.
Given that the penalty for false imprisonment in New Jersey is six months, that means she could be facing a maximum of 1,946 years in jail just for the town residents alone -and that’s not taking into account that she could probably face much more severe penalties for false imprisonment of government agents like those working for S.W.O.R.D. She’s lucky in a way though, because in California, false imprisonment by force is a non-reducible felony.
What About Kidnapping?
Under California law, Wanda could absolutely be convicted of kidnapping as our state laws state that kidnapping requires someone to be moved a substantial distance against their will through the use of force or fear. While there’s no official definition of a “substantial distance” moving people all across town over and over for weeks at a time would certainly qualify.
But because Westview is in New Jersey, things wouldn’t be so clear. That’s because in New Jersey, kidnapping requires someone to either hold someone for ransom, reward or as a hostage, or:
- To facilitate commission of any crime or flight thereafter;
- To inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another;
- To interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function; or
- To permanently deprive a parent, guardian or other lawful custodian of custody of the victim.
Obviously, the first would not apply, and while Wanda did terrorize the victims with her overwhelming feelings of grief, she didn’t take control of the townspeople for that specific purpose. Similarly, while she does technically deprive the parents of the town of custody of their own children, that was actually her goal in taking over the town. That being said, she did purposefully expand the hex to surround the S.W.O.R.D. agents and could thus be accused of kidnapping them.
Human Trafficking/Criminal Restraint
Were Wanda to be charged, it’s likely the prosecution would throw all the charges they could against her because her crimes were so great -even if she wasn’t acting maliciously at first. With that in mind, the fact that she had people working against their will means she could be charged with what California calls human trafficking and New Jersey refers to as criminal restraint.
Criminal restraint in New Jersey carries a penalty of up to 3 years and while Wanda didn’t actually put every member of Westview’s population to work, this would easily add at least another 1000 years to her potential sentence.
In Wanda’s Defense
When Wanda erected the “Hex,” she didn’t know what she was doing. Her grief overwhelmed her, spilled out and caused an explosion of magic big enough to take over a whole town. In fact, it seems she didn’t know what was happening entirely until around the time she ejected Monica from the Hex and she didn’t even realize that she was causing the townspeople to suffer until Agnes freed their minds and allowed them to communicate their horrors to her.
That being said, at some point she did realize that she was controlling the people and didn’t move to put an end to things. It’s hard to argue that she didn’t know what she was doing when she expanded the Hex not just enough to save Vision, but also enough to take control of all the S.W.O.R.D. agents, especially considering that at that time she started creating barriers to prevent Vision from coming back home.
Though an attorney could defend her against her first acts, it would be very difficult to help her fully fight all the charges when she eventually knew full well what she was doing and fought to keep her control over the Hex.
It Was Agnes All Along
While Wanda couldn’t originally be charged with the false imprisonment of Agnes, who was not under her spell, she could in the end when she punishes the witch by condemning her to live her life out as her fictional Agnes-the-housewife persona.
In fact, Agnes could actually be charged with three counts of false imprisonment of her own after trapping Wanda in her rune-covered basement and using a magical necklace to control the body and mind of Ralph Boehner, who in turn, captured and imprisoned agent Monica Rambeau while impersonating Wanda’s deceased brother, Pietro.
Agnes, in this case, could easily face at least 18 months for her false imprisonment although again, she could face enhanced sentencing for taking Monica who is a federal agent. Agnes could also face charges of false impersonation since she used Ralph to impersonate Pietro, but this would be a hard one to prosecute since no one has ever been charged with false impersonation by forcing someone to impersonate someone else.
While Agnes may be the villain in the show, she would be much easier to defend in court than Wanda -and not just because she’s facing far less charges. In fact, her lawyer could argue that she was only working to help free the citizens of Westview by trying to take Wanda’s power away from her. He could further argue that she could not have truly taken control of Ralph since he was already under Wanda’s control at the time. That would leave only the charges related to her imprisonment of Monica (through Ralph’s hands), which would, admittedly be a lot harder to fight.
Fortunately, defending people without superpowers and witchcraft is a lot easier than defending those with these abilities. If you have been accused of any criminal offense, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation today.