Could Ben Affleck Be Liable for 'The Town' NYC Robberies?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ben Affleck's flick The Town and series of NYC robberies have a few things in common.

Well, more than few things. The robberies were inspired by the film.

The series of thefts in New York targeted corner stores, discount stores and pizzerias. The robbers took off with a total of around $217,000. The crimes were dubbed the "splash and dash" robberies because the culprits doused cash registers and drawers with bleach. They hoped to erase their DNA evidence.

This is something that was inspired by The Town. In the film, the main characters also used bleach to try to cover their tracks. And the suspects themselves told the police they got the idea from the Hollywood flick.

The culprits also cut the power to the stores and used headlamps to work in the dark, according to Reuters.

Authorities charged four men in connection with 62 robberies in the NYC area.

Can Hollywood film studios, writers and producers be liable for crimes inspired by their films? Most likely they won't be, even when the criminals admit to getting their ideas straight from their work. This is probably good news for Affleck, who co-wrote and directed the heist film.

Many movies and TV shows depict robberies, murders, and other crimes. However, these are produced with the goal of entertaining individuals. They aren't made to inspire others to commit crimes.

Movie studios and filmmakers can likely argue First Amendment rights if challenged. The rules protecting freedom of speech are relaxed when the speech is about to incite immediate violence. Or if the speech is threatening violence or illegal acts.

In most cases, Hollywood films aren't inciting immediate violence. They also generally don't have the goal of encouraging criminal acts.

So The Town and the NYC robberies, though similar, likely won't result in liability against the film's producers and writers, including Affleck.

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