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I'm currently watching "la Casa de Papel" a.k.a. "Money Heist", which is a series taking place in a hostage situation. There are a lot of things happening, of course, but there were two incidents that raised some "legal" questions in me.

Sorry, there may be spoilers. Also, I am not a law person so my wording might not be correct.

Incident one:

Hostage A is trying to secretly steal a weapon from the heist men, hostage B (which happens to be an employee of A) sees him and then A is threatening him that if he says anything he will fire him after the heist.

Incident two:

Hostage A and three of the heist men (after a failed escape attempt) are pointing guns at each other, Hostage A threatens them to open the door, the Heist men try to convince him to put the gun down, then, Hostage C disables Hostage A.

Since the heist is under police handling, could anything you do inside the heist considered as interference with the police work? e.g. if the behavior of Hostage A causes a shooting that results in people getting killed - but not by Hostage A. Will Hostage A then be responsible for those deaths since he interfered with police work?

If yes, are the Hostages B and C justified for their behavior for trying to stop Hostage A?

Since the country may matter, just for the sake of it, let's assume that the events take place in Spain.

  • In what country/state? – Ron Beyer May 14 '18 at 15:36
  • @RonBeyer never thought that it would matter... For the sake of it, let's say Spain. – xpy May 14 '18 at 15:44
  • Two questions: In situation 1, is Hostage A the employer of Hostage B? In Situation 2: What is the motivation of Hostage C to disable Hostage A? Is it concern for the safety of other Hostages? Or is it some other matter of motivation? – hszmv May 14 '18 at 15:54
  • @hszmv 1, yes he is. 2 I'm not sure what the motives are, but as a result, it was the most peaceful end of the gunfight, I presume that a 3v1 gunfight would result in favor of the Heist men, resulting probably in a worst situation for the hostages. – xpy May 14 '18 at 16:15
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    "Police control" in the title is somewhat of a misnomer. The police aren't really in control until after the hostage situation is over. – ohwilleke May 14 '18 at 19:24
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Since there hostage scenario has fire arms involved, this should be treated as an Active Shooter Event. In this situation, the common emergency response by the hostages would be first to flee (can't do that, they got trapped inside), the next is to hide/shelter in place and remain there until the police arrive. If a confrontation with a gunman or gunmen is unavoidable the official response is to take whatever measures you believe will get you out of that situation safely. If you have to fight back, fight back. If you feel it is better to talk it out with the gunman, do that. If you feel the need to stay where you are, do that. Each move is equally dangerous at this point and your priority should be saving yourself.

With that out of the way, Hostage A shouldn't play Bruce Willis, but if he is comfortable with using a weapon to affect his own freedom from the situation, that is his preoperative. The "threat" of firing from a job if Hostage B blabs is probably intended as dark humor. If Hostage B were to blab, Hostage A will likely be killed by the heist men, so Hostage B wouldn't get fired by Hostage A and Hostage A knows this... basically, he's admitting the plan is so suicidal that being killed is likely to happen regardless of the situation.

In situation 2, I don't see any legal repercussions for either Hostages. Hostage A is acting in self-defense and thus fighting back against legitment threats to person or persons and hostage C is thinking of their safety if he loses. I'm not sure if it would be the same in Spain, but in the U.S. from the first commission of a crime by the Heist men (taking a hostage), the lives and safety of the hostages are in the hands of the Heist men. Even if Hostage A gets someone killed in his attempt to get everyone free, he is not criminally liable for that death, even though it was his bullet from his gun. Rather, the heist men would be charged with the murder of anyone who died for any reason within the building while they were committing the crime (and some time afterwards). The stray bullet from Hostage A's gun and the life ending heart attack from Little Old Lady Hostage D are both on the heads of the hostage takers.

Either way, unless some plot device accounts for the cops outside not hearing the gun fire, Hostage A will summon the Calvary (cops will hold out peaceful surrender of the heist men and the safe release of the hostages so long as they have assurances that the latter are safe. Gun fire will shatter that assurances and send SWAT in to take out the heist men), so the the 3 to 1 odds are not going to hold for long.

  • Thank you, very elaborate. With all these I presume that there is a very slim chance for a hostage to be used as an escape goat if things go very wrong to the degree that the authorities wouldn't want to take the blame. – xpy May 15 '18 at 13:06
  • @xpy - Duress does have its limits as a defense for crime. Hostage A cannot take Hostage E's life if the Hostage Takers demand him too under threat of his own life. He may cause bodily injury though, so long as death does not occur or assist in the transfer of cash from the Bank Vault to their safe. The threat must be greater than the crime Hostage A is committing. – hszmv May 21 '18 at 20:14
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I have never heard of a hostage in a hostage situation anywhere in the world ever being charged with interfering with police, and many police hostage situation tactics rely upon the hostages pro-actively trying to help themselves when an opportunity arises.

Hostages B and C are acting in a way that they believe in good faith will stop them from being killed. Hostage A is doing the same. None of their actions are criminally culpable.

The only way that Hostage A would be responsible for a death not personally caused by Hostage A through unjustified self-defense or defense of others, is not for interfering with police work. Instead, Hostage A might be responsible if Hostage A was also involved in a crime that the "heist men" interrupted, causing the death to be incident to Hostage A's crime. (I don't know if Hostage A was involved in a crime or not, since I have not seen the movie. There is a movie in theaters now, or in trailers, in which the premise involves two overlapping crime attempts by two different groups of criminals.)

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