Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of those legendary movies that people still love thirty years after its release. In fact, a new sequel is planned for release next year. In honor of the thirty year anniversary of this most excellent film, attorney Peter M. Liss has taken an in depth look at what kind of legal troubles the time-traveling duo might face.
Rescuing a Prisoner
By far the greatest crime the boys face is for stealing Ted’s father’s keys and then using them to break into the jail in order to help free Joan of Arc, Sigmund Frued, Socrates, Genghis Kahn, Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven and Billy the Kid. This means they could not only be charged with theft for taking the keys, but also with seven counts of rescuing a prisoner, each of which is punishable by up to four years in prison.
What do Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud, Socrates, Genghis Khan and Beethoven all have in common? None of them are American citizens, and by bringing them into the U.S. without first obtaining the proper legal documents such as passports and Visas, Bill and Ted have smuggled aliens into the country. While the argument could be made the Joan of Arc is a refugee, meaning she could enter the country anywhere and claim asylum without paperwork, the same doesn’t apply to the rest of the historical icons.
Harboring a Fugitive
While Billy the Kid might be an American citizen, he was also a wanted fugitive who killed eight men before he died. When Bill and Ted take him from history, he had already escaped from prison multiple times and killed at least four men. While the statute of limitations on prison escapes might have timed out in the more than 100 years before Billy appeared in Santa Clarita, there is no statute of limitations on murder. That means that by helping Billy escape legal trouble, they’ve harbored a fugitive.
Defending Against These Serious Offenses
The age of Bill and Ted are never revealed in the film, but it seems that as high school students there’s a good chance that they are juveniles. It’s fairly safe to assume that they are juniors in school or else military school wouldn’t be much of a threat to Ted, not to mention that if he was a legal adult he could refuse to go to military school. Assuming they are then 17 or under, it could be particularly beneficial to them if they are tried as minors. That’s because in California’s juvenile court, the focus is far more on reform than on punishment. In fact, those between 16 and 18 cannot be sentenced to stay in prison after the age of 25 and those under 16 cannot be sentenced past their 21st birthday. This could even help them with the federal crimes as the federal government usually defers to the state court system in cases involving juvenile offenders.
Unfortunately, while the reasons behind the crimes involving alien smuggling and harboring a fugitive are both fairly innocent, stealing keys from a police officer and rescuing the prisoners from jail is a lot more serious. That means it might be difficult for their lawyer to keep the crime in juvenile court and fighting the charges will be a lot more difficult in adult court. Should the boys be under 16 though, this would no longer be a problem because all juveniles under 16 must be tried in juvenile court.
As for fighting the charges themselves, the boys could argue that rescuing the prisoners was an “act of necessity,” given that the “aliens” are historical figures who need to be returned to their own time periods as soon as possible in order to maintain the time space continuum. But then this would make the alien smuggling charges seem much more serious because they put the entire continuum at risk. They could also argue a necessity defense as the entire future of the world is dependent on them founding Wyld Stallyns, but this might be a tough sell, even with testimony from Rufus and other people living in the future.
Chances are the boys would be found guilty for at least some of the charges and would likely spend some time behind bars or at least on probation. If the two stayed together though, perhaps they could still found Wyld Stallyns and save the future regardless of their sentencing.
Of course, in real life, defending the time-space continuum won’t usually make a strong defense whether you’re tried in juvenile or adult court. That’s why you should always talk to your attorney before speaking with the police. You can schedule free consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.
Creative Commons Image by Curtis Perry