Bumblebee Better Buckle Up

Bumblebee is a beautiful tribute to everyone who grew up playing with Transformers in the 1980s. The film is set in 1987 in a fictional California town that looked like Santa Cruz located in San Rafael, with heavy homages to pop culture, TV dinners, and the theme song from the animated Transformers movie. However, there are more than a few moving violations in Bumblebee. Put on your seatbelts, because there are spoilers ahead.

Vandalism

Memo talked Charlie into seeking revenge after a mean girl taunted Charlie about the death of her father. The instrumentalities of vengeance were to “TP” and “egg” the mean girl’s house. Bumblebee, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury after being assaulted by the Decepticon Blitzwing, escalated the revenge operation by destroying the mean girl’s car.

Vandalism is the malicious defacing with graffiti, damaging, or destroying, or real or personal property. Cal. Penal Code § 594(a)(1) to (3). Hitting a car with eggs is the intentional damaging of property. Moreover, Bumblebee’s dance moves on the car crushed the vehicle. There is no way around the fact the heroes engaged in a criminal conspiracy to conduct vandalism on a spoiled brat who cruelly mocked the death of Charlie’s father. While the victim most likely lacked a soul, the good guys are not supposed to seek revenge. That is to say nothing about using a mentally diminished Autobot as a henchman. Charlie had recently turned 18 and could be prosecuted as an adult. The issue of recognizing legally Bumblebee as a person aside, there could be a good insanity defense argument due to Bumblebee’s reduced mental capacity.

Reckless Driving

Bumblebee failed to stop for a police officer after escaping from their act of vandalism. Bumblebee engaged the officer in a high-speed chase that included going off the side of a cliff, hanging on the guardrail, and automotive gymnastics in a tunnel. Ideally self-driving cars do not drive like like our favorite VW Autobot. 

It is established law that police officers have a duty to stop a vehicle that they observe on a public street where a violation of the Vehicle Code is evident. See, People v. Evans, 240 Cal. App. 2d 291, 298 (1966). A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Cal. Veh. Code § 23103(a). If Bumblebee qualifies as a person, there are serious issues that he engaged in reckless driving and the police officer had a duty to stop Bumblebee for the Vehicle Code violation. If Bumblebee is not legally a person, then Charlie who was in the driver’s seat, arguably lost control of her vehicle literally and figuratively, and should be held to account. 

California law states that anyone operating a vehicle with the intent to evade a police officer, or willfully attempts to elude a police officer, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The punishment is up to one year in jail. See, Cal. Veh. Code § 2800.1(a). As the police officer in pursuit had 1) one red light visible that Charlie and Bumblebee saw; 2) sounded his siren; 3) the police car was distinctively marked (in 1980s flare); and 4) the police car was operated by a police officer in a distinctive uniform, there is no question that Charlie and Bumblebee could be charged with evading a police officer. There could be additional charges for attempting to elude the police officer with a willful disregard of the safety of others (such as driving off the side of the road). Cal. Veh. Code § 2800.2.

Charlie and Bumblebee had a duty to stop when they saw a police officer was pursuing them for their exhibition of speed. They failed to do so and instead embarked on a high speed chase in violation of the law that has been on the books since the 1970s. These laws are not meant to be a buzz kill (no relation to the Autobot), but to keep people from getting killed. 

Mandatory Seatbelt Laws

California enacted mandatory seatbelt laws in 1985 (see, Cal. Veh. Code 1361 § 1.5, now Cal. Veh. Code § 27315) and was effective on June 1, 1986 after being amended. This law was enacted with the intent to reduce highway deaths and injuries by wearing seatbelts. Current law requires that persons under 16 years of age “shall not” be a passenger in a car on the highway unless restrained by a seatbelt. Cal. Veh. Code § 27315(e). Fines for not wearing a seatbelt are $20 for a first time offense not more than $50 for each additional offense. Cal. Veh. Code § 27315(h).

The Watson family car did NOT have seatbelts in 1987. Moreover, this is a worrisome fact that the family car owned by a NURSE did not have seatbelts installed in order to comply with the law. While not discounting the threat of giant robots trying to eliminate all of humanity, Sally should get seatbelts.

Stored Communications Act

The US Government arguably violated the 4th Amendment and Stored Communications Act (SCA) by allowing the Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick to access data networks and communications.

The SCA was enacted in 1986 and prevents “providers” of communication services from divulging private communications to certain entities and individuals. It “creates a set of Fourth Amendment-like privacy protections by statute, regulating the relationship between government investigators and service providers in possession of users’ private information. Crispin v. Christian Audigier, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52832 (C.D. Cal. May 26, 2010). Without taking too deep a dive into the definitions of Remote Computing Service (RCS) and Electronic Communication Service (ECS), these existed in 1987. The fact the government enabled the Decepticons to access both Remote Computing and Electronic Communications Services was a violation of the Stored Communications Act and an unlawful search of everyone in the Western United States.

Bumblebee is a Fun Ride

The 1980s Transformers cartoon was must see TV in my childhood. I fondly recall racing to finish homework in order to watch the show when it came on at 400pm. The Bumblebee movie does a wonderful job capturing everything fun about Transformers and is worth a trip to the theater to see it.