Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Bueller, Bueller

Jezebel has a cute video highlighting the crimes of Ferris Bueller. Really, I think this just proves that Principal Rooney was the real hero of the film. Damn that kid!

Save Ferris

The video shows Ferris committing:

  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Speeding in a School Zone
  • Littering
  • Speeding
  • Petty Theft
  • Computer Tampering/Fraud
  • Changing Public Records
  • Trespassing on Private Property
  • Reckless Driving
  • Identity Theft
  • Breaking and Entering
  • Inciting a Riot

But many of these aren’t actually crimes in Illinois (where the movie takes place). I’m not certain where some of the names of these crimes come from, but the law nerd in me cannot let this stand. Watch the video before you read on, unless you’ve memorized every second of the movie.

The Crimes

For starters, Grand Theft Auto doesn’t exist in Illinois, but they have a regular old Theft statute. Now, Wikipedia says the Ferrari 250 GT California model was worth $350,000, making this a Class 1 Felony Theft, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Speeding in a School Zone is also not a thing, but the Illinois Vehicle Code does have a section titled “Special Speed Limit While Passing Schools,” the violation of which is punishable by a minimum fine of $150 for a first offense, slightly less than the $250 minimum for speeding in a construction zone.

Littering totally is a crime, though, and is prohibited in the Litter Control Act. It’s also punishable by six months in prison and a $1,500 fine. Speeding is another helpfully vague title; in Illinois, it’s covered in 625 ILCS §5/11-601. If Mr. Bueller was speeding really egregiously, he was guilty of the amusingly titled “Driving 31 Miles Per Hour or More in Excess of the Applicable Limit,” which is pretty much the opposite of vague. D31MPHOMIEOTAL is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Also, Petty Theft isn’t a crime as such, but the regular crime of Theft is a petty offense if the stolen property was lost or waylaid. Petty offenses are not punishable by any jail time, but are punishable by a $1,000 fine and 6 months’ probation.

However, Computer Tampering is a crime in Illinois - it’s 720 ILCS §5/16D-3, and it describes pretty much exactly what Ferris did. In fact, it might even be Aggravated Computer Tampering, if he has disrupted or interfered with vital operations of his local government. Personally, I’d argue that education is the among the most vital operation a government can undertake, but I’d bet that the case law completely disagrees with me. Regardless, Computer Tampering is a Class 4 Felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison.

The next one, Changing Public Records doesn’t seem to be a crime, at least in Illinois. I think the single most applicable crime to what is described here is Computer Tampering from the previous paragraph; if you wanted to go for a second crime, I’d try Interference with an Institution of Public Education. That one is a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a $1,500 fine. Tresspassing on Private Property **[sic] is properly called Criminal Trespass to Real Property in Illinois, a Class B Misdemeanor, good for 6 months in prison and a $1,500 fine. **Reckless Driving, however, is the correct name for what Ferris is doing. Covered by 625 ILCS §5/11-503, it’s a Class 4 Felony, which carries a maximum jail term of 3 years.

As far as Ferris and Identity Theft go, that one is a bit of a stretch. The law covers a lot of contingencies, and the only one that even arguably covers what Ferris & co. is the following; anyone who

uses any personal identification information … of another for the purpose of gaining access to any record of the actions taken, communications made or received, or other activities or transactions of that person, without the prior express permission of that person

is guilty of the crime of Identity Theft. Personal Identification Information is defined to include a person’s name, so maaaaaybe if Abe Froman’s reservation at the restaurant was an “activity or transaction,” that’s Identity Theft. It’s arguable, but I don’t think it passes the straight face test. (Again, I’m not going to cite case law here, I’m just interested in naming these crimes properly.) It’s a Class 2 Felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 7 years in jail. That makes me think the case law must have a “Sausage King exception” or something; poor Ferris shouldn’t miss prom, college, and grad school just for cutting in line to get some pancreas.

The Weird Crimes

The single most puzzling entry on this list is Breaking and Entering, which is an antiquated term for Burglary. Burglary is, of course, a crime in Illinois, but burglary is trespassing with the intent of committing a crime inside the premises you’re trespassing within. The Jezebel video makes it seem like simply trespassing into someone’s house is Breaking and Entering, but that’s simply not right. We’ve already covered Trespassing above.

The last one, Inciting a Riot, is almost as puzzling. That’s simply not a crime in Illinois. Disrupting a parade and causing a dance number to break out in the middle of the street could be creating a Public Nuisance, which is the criminal obstruction of public streets. Similarly, it might fit the catch-all Disorderly Conduct, which is an unreasonable act that alarms/disturbs another, and provokes a breach of the peace; this is a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a $1,500 fine. A Public Nuisance is a simple petty offense, punishable by a $100 fine.

In Conclusion

This is why we can’t have nice things. Jezebel posted a perfectly fine video, and I went and nerded all over it. But now you know what to expect when you re-enact Ferris’s crime spree across the fine state of Illinois.