In 1980 comedy film The Blues Brothers, brothers Jake and Elwood Blues commit a seemingly endless series of crimes over the course of about eleven in-story days. They:

  • evade arrest for Elwood’s invalid license,
  • destroy a mall and significantly endanger probably hundreds of people in the process,
  • drive towards and almost run over a group of neo-Nazis lawfully demonstrating on a bridge,
  • evade a bar charge from their band's first return gig in years,
  • severely endanger The Good Ole Boys' lives by secretly gluing down their gas pedal, and
  • destroy an unknown number of police cars (edit: a bit of research shows that 103 cars were destroyed for the film and my memory indicates that almost all of those were police, excepting at least The Good Ole Boys' motor home and the car of the leader of the neo-Nazi group).

And that’s just the crimes I could remember offhand. So my question is as follows:

With (approximately) what would the Blue Brothers have been charged with, either federally or in-state (here that state is Illinois)? Secondarily, approximately what might the associated sentences have looked like?

Obviously it’s impossible to tally exactly what they did over the course of the movie, not least because of how much time they spend off camera, so I’m just looking for a range. Either contemporary or present law is fine, but I imagine there won’t be a huge difference either way (as most of the things that they do are flagrantly illegal in either 1979 or 2022). And I know sentencing is greatly affected by the identity of the judge- again, I'm only requesting a plausible range.

I also note that Elwood, usually doing the driving, seems to commit most of the actual crimes, so perhaps Jake would mostly get charges of aiding and abetting Elwood. Furthermore, both Elwood and Jake (in particular Jake, who is being released from a several-year term in jail in the opening scenes of the film) seem to have had extensive run-ins with the law before, so presumably their priors are not exactly squeaky clean (as noted by user6726). To be clear, I am not a lawyer or other legal expert, so my knowledge of what would transpire legally speaking is incomplete at best. Also, I recognize many of you may have never seen the film or at least not recently, so you can also consider this question a directive to go watch a very funny movie. Hope you enjoy! :)

  • 2
    I think listing the crimes is doable and potentially entertaining, but computing sentences would be sheer drudgery. Esp. since priors figure into sentences. Just saying.
    – user6726
    Dec 28, 2020 at 2:29
  • Okay, that’s entirely possible. In that case, feel free not to include possible sentencing in any answer you give. I mean, there’s a reason I put it there secondarily rather than primarily- it’s not the main focus of my question, just a potential additional tidbit. Dec 28, 2020 at 3:59
  • You have to wonder how many people they actually killed with stunts like driving through the mall and causing all those car crashes, although if movie magic is involved to save everybody's lives then you're really dealing with fantasy law enforcement.
    – Stuart F
    May 4, 2021 at 9:55
  • 1
    @user6726 while it's purely an entertainment to list the crimes at the moment, it may become material in some (hopefully extremely distant) future. Given FCC's ability to regulate content and the current political climate at least contemplating giving FCC more censorial powers, it is conceivable that every crime portrayed in a glamorized fashion may result in a fine at some point. This may seem paranoid, but some dystopian predictions do, from time to time, turn out to be true. So such musings are not entirely out of the realm of the possible.
    – grovkin
    Nov 10, 2021 at 13:51


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