Legal Target Practice with the Punisher

Marvel’s The Punisher on Netflix makes every shot count. The series has the most character development out of all of the Marvel shows on Netflix. It takes the Punisher beyond being the revenge driven killing machine, diving into the character’s motivations, history, and personal code. The show is extremely violent, which is balanced against understanding service members living with PTSD and recovery from grief.

The Punisher is target practice for legal issue spotting. Here are just a few of the crimes depicted in the series.

Illegal Gambling

One of the first crimes seen is a small gang robbing a mob gambling ring. Gambling under New York law is when a person risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance, on the agreement they will receive something of value based on the outcome. N.Y. Penal Law § 225.00. The mob run poker games were a criminal enterprise, which is a group of people with common purpose engaged in structured criminal conduct. N.Y. Penal Law § 460.10. The mob organizers likely could be proven guilty of promoting gambling in the first degree, because they had profits of more than $500 per day from their games. N.Y. Penal Law § 225.10

Torture

There is A LOT of torture in Punisher. Multiple characters are tied to chairs for beatings, including Carson Wolf, Micro, and Frank Castle.

The relevant New York laws for torture are Menacing and Assault. Menacing is when someone places another person in a reasonable fear of physical injury, serious injury, or death, by displaying a deadly weapon. N.Y. Penal Law § 120.14. Menacing turns into Assault once physical contact has been made. N.Y. Penal Law § 120.10.

Reckless Driving

The episode “Resupply” has a car chase with a 1967 Mustang driven by DHS Agent Dinah Madani vs. the Punisher in a recent model Mustang. It is a great car chase, but nevertheless, raises the issue of “reckless driving.” New York defines this prohibited activity as driving in a manner that “unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.” N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 1212. While the streets had been cleared for the DHS sting operation, the charging Mustangs playing chicken was a clear risk to others on the roads and not proper law enforcement procedures.

Murder of Federal Agents

There is a staggering number of DHS Agents killed by members of Anvil. It is a crime to kill an officer or employee of the United States. See, 18 U.S.C.S. § 1114. As the Federal Agents were all shot in gunfights in the performance of their duties, the deaths arguably were willful and deliberate, thus could be punished as Murder. See, 18 U.S.C.S. § 1111.

Hacking

Micro hacks local, state, and Federal computers for large volumes of information. The list of violations against him could include 1) prohibiting accessing national defense information; 2) prohibiting accessing information from any department or agency of the United States; and 3), prohibiting accessing nonpublic computers used by the government. 18 USCS § 1030(a)(1), (a)(2)(B), and (a)(3).

There is a similar list for New York computers accessed, including the unauthorized use of a computer, computer trespass, computer tampering, and unlawful duplication of data. See, N.Y. Penal Law §§ 156.05, 156.10, 156.27, and 156.29.

Faking Own Death

Micro faked his own death after sustaining what should have been a fatal gunshot wound, if not for his cell phone. This technically is fraud and if there were any pending Federal charges against him, faking one’s own death would be a “substantial interference with the administration of justice” that would warrant a sentence enhancement. U.S. v. Hecht, 212 F.3d 847, 848 (3d Cir. 2000).

Warrantless Wiretaps

The CIA conducted unauthorized wiretaps to find information on the “Punisher tip line.” This information was then used to kidnap a mother and child. Wiretapping anyone in the United States without a warrant would violate the 4th Amendment of the United States. Spy agencies kidnapping US citizens is also clearly illegal.

Terrorism

Lewis Wilson planted and detonated three homemade bombs around New York, including the Federal Courthouse and Alcohol, Tabacco, and Firearms offices. This is domestic terrorism, because bombings are acts dangerous to human life that are intended to intimidate the civilian population, influence government policy, and affect the conduct of government by mass destruction within the United States. 18 USCS § 2331(5).

Attempted Assassination of Senator

Lewis Wilson attempted to assassinate [fictional] Senator Stan Ori in “Virtue of the Vicious.” Assuming Ori was a U.S. Senator, Federal law states that anyone who kidnaps and kills a United States Senator (or member of Congress or the Executive Branch) shall be punished by death or imprisonment up to life. 18 USCS § 351(b)(2). While Wilson was not successful, he could have been charged for the attempt on the Senator’s life.

Desecration of Corpses for Drug Smuggling

The drug trafficking conspiracy include heroine being smuggled in the bodies of service members killed in Afghanistan. This would qualify as a criminal conspiracy under 21 U.S.C.S. § 963 to distribute drugs illegally under 21 U.S.C.S. § 959 by the desecration of corpses under 10 U.S.C.S. § 934.

Secured from Drills

Marvel’s The Punisher is an exceptional show. There are many other legal issues to discuss, so stay tune for more.

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