Professor Barry R. Langford, J.D.
7 October 2009
All Fletched Up
Through the use of film, artists are able to either entertain or educate. It is a fact that films are considered more of entertainment value than educational; however both can consist.. This doesn’t have to be intentional. For example, taking a look at the film Fetch starring comedy legend Chevy Chase, criminal justice majors are able to identify with where law violations occur whereas casual viewer student may or may not notice.
Hailed as a comedy classic by fans and critics alike, Fletch follows Chevy Chase’s character by the same name as he unravels though a plot of deception and corruption. As a journalist Fletch, goes to many extremes and multiple hilarious scenarios to uncover the truth. Through all the hi-jinks, law students are able to find several law violations within the film. There are six main events to be discussed.
The first event occurs very early in the film as Fletch, while working undercover for a journalism article, is approached by Allen Stanwyck with a proposition. Allen offers 50 thousand dollars to be murdered due his supposed bone cancer. The scenario is completely laid out: where to find the gun, where Allen will be present, the location of the open safe, the getaway card and plan tickets to Rio del Janiero. Fletch initially agree, but investigates the circumstances as the film goes on.
In agreeing to commit the act several issues arise. Since the plan is planned out and premeditated and completely thought out, if the act is committed then Fletch would be charged with first degree murder. But since this is only agreeing to do so, it would be conspiracy to commit murder because there is a contractual agreement to commit the murder. Stanwyck could also be charged with solicitation according to the Model Penal Code 5.02 where it defines that a suspect guilty of criminal solicitation “request or commands another person to engage in conduct that would constitute as a crime.”
Not long after following that scene, Fletch plans a doctor visit with Stanwyck’s doctor to get further information concerning Stanwyck’s supposed cancer. After receiving no answer from the doctor, he goes undercover as a doctor to reach the records room. In doing so, along with setting up a hilarious scenario where Fletch assisted with autopsy, impersonates a doctor and reads confidential patient files.
This is considered a violation of privacy, since there files were only for the patient and the doctor(s) to see. Model penal code defines that a violation of privacy can occur through a breach of privates message, and though medical files are typical “messages” it is a way for doctors to communicate to each other as well as revealing result to a patient; thus, becoming a form of communication between people.
One of the more notable scenes in the film involves the police. Actually, there are several scenes worth mentioning. The first takes part on the beach where Fletch is working undercover for a drug trafficking case, when police arrive chasing down a specific young man. When arriving to the scene Fletch witnesses the police violently attacking the young man, whom is unarmed and never posed a threat of any sort. When Fletch approaches the scene, he too is attack by the police before the leave with the young man in custody.
There is a times where police officers need the use of force to prevent a suspect from harming themselves or other. The Model Penal Code section 3.07 sites that the use of force can be used in the following situations: to prevent escape from custody, prevent suicide of commission of a crime, and by a private person assisting an unlawful arrest.
In the second scene, Fletch arrives home and is surprised by two detectives waiting for him. After a quick pat down they plant heroin on Fletch and take him into the station. Once again the police are being rough where there is no need. At the station Fletch is brought in to see Chief Karlin whom is corrupt as well. He threatens to shoot Fletch in the face and claim self defense or Fletch can cancel his story involving the police brutality at the beach earlier. Fletch under duress and fear of his life agrees to do so. This case also follows the violation of the use of force continuum.
When returning home, again, Fletch discovers police officers waiting on him. In response, he begins a car chase where he eventually “borrows” another car that provides better speed. A young boy is in the vehicle prior and during the chase reveals that the car had already been stolen. As he drives he intentionally runs police cars off the road in an attempt to get way but endangering lives in the process.
Section 242.2 of the Model Penal Code covers the issue of resisting arrest. It defines that resisting arrest as a misdemeanor if the suspect creates a serious risk of bodily injury to the public official or others. That is exactly what occurred in this scene, Fletch risk the safety of the officers, the kid in the vehicle with him and other drivers in order to effectively escape arrest. Fletch, however, could argue that the police had been harassing him unjustly and feared for his own safety.
When checking the flights prepared by Stanwyck, Fletch discovers a lady named Sally sitting next to him and her ticket was purchased by Stanwyck as well. With interests sparked, Fletch travels to Utah to find Sally’s home unlock and enters the home to look around for any evidence of who she is. This is interrupted by a friend of the landlord.
Fletch could be charged with Trespassing and burglary in this scenario. Burglary could be charged, because he did enter the premises unlawfully regardless of the door being unlocked or not however it would be difficult to prove if he indeed planned to commit a crime once inside. Regarding trespassing, Fletch could agree that the premises appeared to have been abandoned according to Model Penal Code 221.2.
As the film begins to close it is revealed that Stanwyck travels to Utah once a month to visit his parents and Sally, who is revealed to be his wife. The issue here is that Stanwyck is married to a lady named Gail in Los Angeles. Thus, Stanyck is guilty of bigamy. Schmalleger and Hall, defines that bigamy is a person being married to one person “while legally married to another person.” It is considered a misdemeanor under the Model Penal Code and several states (Schmalleger, and Hall, 2014).
In conclusion, Fletch provides a series of law applications that could go unnoticed by viewers. Because of an understanding of how law works and the Model Penal Code, students are able to identify the cause and effects of law violation depicted in film. Fletch still contains its laughs and suspense but now, for some, it will be a mean educational application of law.
Hall, Daniel E., and Schmalleger, Franks. Criminal Law Today. Boston, Ma. Pearson Education, 2014. Print
Fletch. Dir. Michael Ritchie. Perf. Chevy Chase, Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicolson, and Geena Davis. Universal Pictures. 1985. Film.