Solo: A Star Wars Story is full of crimes and capers, mystery and intrigue, basically everything you could want in a space western (except maybe a long brown coat or a story that’s as compelling as the Han Solo Trilogy of books (if you haven’t read them go pick them up, starts with Paradise Snare)). While the move is very good about showing the planning and plotting of the crew’s crimes, it’s not great about showing the consequences of what would have happened if they’re caught (though this article is largely spoiler free for Solo, I suppose it could be a spoiler that the crew does not get prosecuted through the Imperial Justice System.) (Also, this is my last parenthetical in this article, promise).
First, a brief and largely spoiler free story recap. After some adventures on his home planet of Corellia, Han has found himself on the Planet Mimban as part of the Imperial Infantry. There he meets a thief named Tobias Beckett who steals an Imperial AT-Hauler as part of a larger crime that we won’t go into. Taking an alternate from the movie track let’s say that Beckett and crew are caught at this point and put on trial by the Imperial Inspectorate, prosecuted by –let’s say- Captain Magna Tolvan. Captain Tolvan has a long list of charges she could bring against the crew. The choice of charging them individually or as co-defendants, or under something like RICO is beyond the scope of this article so let’s just assume that the entire crew is charged with the same crimes. Let’s also assume that we’re looking at the US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) since it’s likely that the Imperial Navy would have some very similar code. The Crew’s Indictment might look a little something like this (charges in no particular order)(yes, I lied about that being my last parenthetical):
Count 1) Fraudulent enlistment, appointment, or separation: Beckett did produce his own enlistment or appointment in the Imperial Navy by knowingly false representation or deliberate concealment as to his qualifications for that enlistment or appointment and receives pay or allowances there under. UCMJ Art. 43, 10 USC 883.
Count 2) Loss, Damage, or Wrongful Disposition of Military Property of the Imperial Navy: Beckett and team, without proper authority, willfully or through neglect damaged, destroyed, or lost military property of the Imperial Navy. UCMJ Art. 108, 10 USC 908.
Count 3) Larceny and Wrongful Appropriation: Beckett and team did wrongfully take, obtain, or withhold, by any means, from the possession of the owner of any other kind of person, any money personal property, or article of value of any kind- with the intent permanently to deprive or defraud another person of the use and benefit of property or to appropriate it to his own use or the use of any person other than the owner, steals that property.
Count 4) Mutiny or Sedition: Beckett and crew did, with the intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, created violence or disturbance. Art. 94 Mutiny or Sedition, 10 USC 894
So, that’s where they might start with Beckett and crew. From there the process would like a normal court procedure. The prosecutor, Tolvan, would bring the charges. Beckett and crew would each get separate attorneys and decide how they each wanted to proceed. There might be deals made, Tolvan might try to get Han or Rio to testify against Beckett in exchange for a lenient deal. Given that the penalty for mutiny is death there is plenty of leverage for Tolvan to utilize when dealing with the crew. This assumes that she is more interested in Beckett as the boss. Ultimately, we end up at a court-martial. For this articles purposes it makes sense to think of a court-martial as a trial, though they don’t have what we commonly think of as a jury. The process is in essence the same as a trial, a prosecutor puts on evidence to prove the defendant(s) guilty and their attorney gets to put on a defense.
Since we’ve all seen the movie (or don’t want to read my rehash of the scene) we can assume that Tolvan manages to get her conviction and we move on to the penalty phase. The penalties at a court-martial can run the gamut from a formal reprimand, to being dishonorably discharged, to imprisonment and fines. At least for counts 1, 2, and 3. Count 4 on the other hand… well if Beckett is convicted of mutiny then the sentence can be anything including death. Since we never see the Empire being lenient with its prisoners (they tortured and were going to execute Leia), things are not looking up for Beckett.
An aside: it is also possible that Beckett and company could be tried as civilians for theft and something along the lines of disorderly conduct/creating a disturbance, but that’s not as much fun. Plus, since they seem to have falsely enlisted in the Imperial Forces they probably have it coming.