In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise.
“The Other Guys” is a buddy- and cop-comedy about two guys, Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Holtz (Mark Wahlberg), who step up to the plate to become New York City heroes.
But legal observers who see “The Other Guys” know this film carries penal code violations and legal issues every few seconds. Here are just some:
Destruction of property through excessive police power
One of the most hilarious, violation-filled scenes features star cops Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Danson (Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson). The scene starts with Danson on the hood of a perp’s car racing down the streets of New York City. Highsmith is following in hot pursuit with a loaded gun. He’s also ready to leap from his car. This action duo manages to capture the perp after destroying a double-decker bus and crashing a car into an office building. They cause $12 million in damages, but, at least in the movies, snaring a perp packing a few ounces of marijuana seems to make this cinematic police work worthwhile.
Although adoring New York denizens laud Highsmith and Danson in the movies, in the real world, wouldn’t these cops get plenty of Bronx cheers? They also likely would be subject to liability for all their chase-related destruction. In most jurisdictions, government officials and police enjoy immunity from liability for injuries or property damage caused in police chases — as long as their conduct passes a certain standard of care. In New York, for example, officers may not be immune from liability if it can be shown they did not carry out the “duty to drive with due regard for the safety of others” during a police chase.
Verdict: It’s unlikely that Highsmith and Danson meet this standard of care, especially as they voluntarily crash their cruiser into a double-decker bus full of civilians, instead of, perhaps, just waiting for the civilian-laden vehicle to pass before resuming their pursuit.
Flawed delivery of Miranda Rights to a Suspect
Allen Gamble (Ferrell) has never read a suspect his Miranda Rights before. So can you blame him when he says: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to … what is it again … to use a flotation device.”
The U.S. Supreme court, of course, has indicated in various rulings that the Miranda statement does not have to be read in exacting fashion; the warning may be valid, if it reasonably conveys to the suspect his rights, the justices allow, noting that, as long as the warning touches all bases of rights provided by Miranda, it will be valid.
Still, Gamble omits a crucial part of Miranda: the notice by an arresting officer that a detained individual possesses the right to speak to an attorney before and during questioning. Many courts have ruled in favor of defendants because police failed to make clear at what point they may invoke their Miranda Rights and have access to counsel. Since Gamble does not even mention the right to counsel, his suspect likely was not effectively “Mirandized.”
Accepting bribes to curtail an investigation
Suspecting that millionaire investor David Ershan (Steve Coogan) is involved in illegal activity, Gamble and Holtz go to his office to interrogate him. Ershan gives them a choice: They can continue their investigation or get two courtside tickets to the Knicks. The next scene shows the cops at the Knicks. When they realize they have been bribed, they return to see Ershan. After offering them a sparkling glass of water with a cucumber slice, Ershan offers the officers more choices: tickets to “Mamma Mia” or “Jersey Boys.” They see “Jersey Boys,” which Gamble critiques, saying it “wasn’t good, it was GREAT!”
Ah, the movies. In the real world, the two could face charges and a likely conviction on bribery charges under several statutes, including, §201 of the U.S. Code. It outlines punishments for any public official accepting anything of value to be influenced in the performance (or lack thereof) in any official act, including: fines of three times the value of a bribe; 15 years imprisonment; and disqualification from office. Hmm, 15 years in Otisville would give these clueless cops lots of time with Jersey fellas and that Broadway show might seem even less good.