Ant-Man is a very fun Marvel movie. The atomic structure of the film has a perplexing nucleus: Can a super-hero commit a criminal conspiracy for burglary and the willful destruction of property in order to stop international terrorism (specifically HYDRA)? Why not just let the FBI handle enforcement for a change?
Hank Pym’s goal throughout the story is for his Pym Particles to not be turned into a weapon of war by by anyone from SHIELD to Howard Stark to Darren Cross. Pym served as a SHIELD Agent for decades and quit after learning SHIELD was trying to replicate his Pym Particles in 1989. This shrinking technology was unquestionably Pym’s personal intellectual property. Pym had successful kept the technology secret for 26 years until Darren Cross had weaponized the technology into the Yellowjacket suit.
Enter Scott Lang, recruited by Pym to steal the Yellowjacket suit from Pym Technologies. Would Hank Pym, Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyne, and the rest of the Ant-Gang have a valid necessity defense for their theft from Pym Industries and resulting property damage?
It is no small legal matter. A fictional version of me in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would take the case and argue as follows for the Defendants:
California law (since the film is based in San Francisco) defines the necessity defense as follows for the use of force:
Any necessary force may be used to protect from wrongful injury the person or property of oneself, or of a wife, husband, child, parent, or other relative, or member of one’s family, or of a ward, servant, master, or guest.
Cal Civ Code § 50.
California case law requires the following elements to be met for a defendant to have the defense of necessity for violating the law:
(1) [Law was broken] to prevent a significant and imminent evil;
(2) With no reasonable legal alternative;
(3) Without creating a greater danger than the one avoided;
(4) With a good faith belief that the criminal act was necessary to prevent the greater harm;
(5) With such belief being objectively reasonable; and
(6) Under circumstances in which she did not substantially contribute to the emergency.
People v. Kearns (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 1128, 1135 [64 Cal.Rptr.2d 654].
Hank Pym’s primary goal was to keep his technology from being turned into a Weapon of Mass Destruction that would horrifically alter warfare. Dr. Pym actions were consistent with ensuring Restricted Data under the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 would not fall into the hands of a foreign power. Darren Cross openly stated his intention to sell the Yellowjacket technology. As such, there was a threat that could have caused significant harm. However, there is a strong argument the threat was not imminent.
A lawyer could argue that the threat of selling the Pym technology was imminent because the technology itself was secret. The Cold War missions of the “Ant-Man” were classified from the days when SHIELD actually did good, such as stopping a nuclear attack on the United States. With the fall of SHIELD after The Winter Soldier, and known HYDRA operatives after the technology, there was no way to engage the FBI or other Federal law enforcement agency to comply with the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment.
Darren Cross committed multiple acts of murder, cruelty to animals with his experiments on lambs, and had contracted to sell the Yellowjacket technology to HYDRA. Cross knowingly provided material support to a foreign terrorist organization under 18 USCS § 2339A and 18 USCS § 2339B. These crimes are punished by imprisonment for 20 years or life if the terrorist support had caused the loss of life.
Pym’s legal team could argue that the unlawful entry into Pym Technologies was to prevent the significant and imminent evil of selling advanced weapons to HYDRA; that there was no reasonable legal alternative given the classified nature of the information and unavailability of law enforcement; the act of breaking into Pym Technologies and destroying the building did not create a greater harm then arming a genocidal Neo-Nazi terrorist organization; Pym had an objective good faith belief that breaking into Pym Technologies would prevent greater harm then the Yellowjacket weapons system being sold to terrorists; and the planned heist did not substantially did not contribute to the emergency.
The last element would need to be shrunk down in argument, because the Ant-team did blow up, and then miniaturize, Pym Technologies.