How Someone Stole a Plane Without Breaking Federal Law

How Someone Stole a Plane Without Breaking Federal Law


This video was was made possible by CuriosityStream. When you sign up with the link in the description,
you’ll also get access to Nebula, the streaming video platform that Wendover is a part of. Hello everybody and welcome to a Half as Interesting
episode where we’ll be doing something a little different: talking about planes. Now listen up, because this episode is serious—I’m
not plane around. Except for that one pun, which helps me to
keep a flight tone. Okay, I’ll stop now—any more puns and
I’ll seem like a real cockpit. To understand what you’re about to hear,
we need to talk a bit about the history of planes. Planes are flat, two-dimensional geometric
surfaces that were first described by the Greek mathematician Euclid around 300 BC in
his seminal text Elem—ah, you know what, sorry, I’m just now realizing that’s the
wrong type of plane. Classic mistake, sorry about that, guys, I’m
just a little out of my comfort zone with this whole, “planes,” thing. Let me try again: the first successful airplane
flight was in 1903, but it wasn’t until after World War II, in the 1950s, that planes
really, you know, took off, which means that an airplane in 1926—when our story takes
place—was like a man-bun in 2007: there were a few people who had them, but they were
far from widespread, and with that in mind, let’s begin. In 1926, a man named William McBoyle hired
a pilot to steal a Waco airplane in Ottawa, Illinois and fly it to Guymon, Oklahoma. After the plane had been stolen, McBoyle then
instructed the pilot to take a similar airplane that McBoyle actually owned, and swap it with
the stolen airplane to try to confuse the police. The pilot attempted to do that, but crashed,
probably because planes in 1926—again, like man-buns—sucked. So, much like the owner of a man-bun should
be, McBoyle and the pilot were arrested, and McBoyle was convicted in federal court of
violating the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act. Specifically, he was convicted of Section
3 of that act, which outlaws, “transport[ing] or caus[ing] to be transported in interstate
or foreign commerce a motor vehicle, knowing the same to have been stolen.” After he was convicted, McBoyle’s lawyers
filed an appeal—in which, in a truly galaxy-brain level argument, they claimed not that their
client didn’t steal the airplane, not that he didn’t take it across state lines, but
that he had done both those things, yet it didn’t matter because an airplane isn’t
a motor vehicle. The appeals court said they were wrong, and
so the lawyers appealed to a group of out of touch old people wearing robes—no not
that one, this one. The Supreme Court miraculously not only took
the case but said that they agreed. Writing for the majority, Justice Oliver Wendell
Holmes claimed that, “in everyday speech, ‘vehicle’ calls up the picture of a thing
moving on land,” and in his conclusion, said that Congress probably meant to include
airplanes somewhere in their law, but—possibly because airplanes were still pretty new—it
seemed they had forgotten. He wrote, “the statute should not be extended
to aircraft simply because it may seem to us that a similar policy applies, or upon
the speculation that, if the legislature had thought of it, very likely broader words would
have been used.” And so, the newly crowned lord of loopholes
William McBoyle went free. So, I guess the moral of the video is, find
a new invention, like fidget spinners, and steal as many of them as possible before Congress
makes a law about it. Yep, that seems like it definitely won’t
backfire. Alright, byeeeeee. DEVIN: Whoa, whoa, whoa there, Sam, not so
fast. SAM: Oh! Hello, Devin from LegalEagle; what are you
doing here, and how can you hear me? DEVIN: Well Sam, I’m here because I’m
your lawyer, and I can hear you because I bugged your office to make sure that you weren’t
doing anything illegal. SAM: Wait, but isn’t bugging my office illegal? DEVIN: Um….. you know what Sam, why don’t
you leave the lawyering to me. That’s what you pay me for. SAM: I don’t remember every agreeing to
pay you. DEVIN: Well Sam, if that were true, how do
you explain the Jet Ski I just bought with 10% of your ad revenue. SAM: Um… I don’t… you know what let’s talk about
this later. The point is, I still don’t understand why
you’re in my video. DEVIN: Well Sam, I’m here because you just
gave your audience some incredibly bad legal advice. You see, William McBoyle did break the law—just
not a federal law, which is what he was initially convicted of. Stealing anything is illegal—whether it’s
a wallet or a plane, or 10% of Sam’s ad revenue, but the generic law that says, “you
can’t steal stuff,” is a state law, not a federal one. The reason is that federal law only covers
the stuff that the constitution allows and that congress has addressed. Everything else is left to the states — they
have what’s call, “plenary,” authority. Back in the 20s, Congress was so busy totally,
100% following prohibition that they hadn’t made a, “plane stealing law,” so there
was no Federal law for McBoyle to be charged under. By the way, this is a great example a, “canon
of construction,” or theory of interpretation called ejusdem generis, which means, “of
the same kind, class, or nature”— the law mentioned other kinds of transport, and
could have mentioned aircraft, but didn’t. Rightly or wrongly, we assume legislators
know what they are doing when they draft laws—even if those laws do something dumb like forget
that planes exist. If the statute of limitations hadn’t run,
McBoyle could have been convicted under felony grand larceny in Illinois. There’s no such thing as a free plane. But there is such thing as a free subscription
to Nebula, which is exactly what you’ll get when you sign up for CuriosityStream. CuriosityStream is, of course, the documentary
streaming service with thousands of top-quality films, including originals by people like
Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, and even Stephen Hawking, and Nebula is the streaming
service started by all your favorite educational creators: CGP Grey, MinutePhysics, me, even
Devin from LegalEagle, who you might remember from… you know… 30 seconds ago. Because we figured that people who like documentaries
might also like the stuff we make, we came together to offer a great deal: when you sign
up for an annual subscription to CuriosityStream, which is only $20 a year, you’ll also get
a free annual subscription to Nebula. All you have to do is go the curiositystream.com/HAI,
and sign up to any one of their subscriptions.

100 thoughts on “How Someone Stole a Plane Without Breaking Federal Law”

  1. Make sure to check out Devin's channel for more great Legal Eagling (whatever that is): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpa-Zb0ZcQjTCPP1Dx_1M8Q

  2. If it is a town in TX, Waco is pronounced (Way)co…if it is a WACO airplane, then it is pronounced w(ah)co…if it someone who wears a boot on their head for a hat, then it is pronounced wacko.

  3. Not that the little town of Guymon will ever appear in another video ever, but its name is pronounced Guy-mahn, not Gooey-mon. Gotta stick up for small Okie towns 💖

  4. I just wanted you to know that the second season is still written as beginning in late 2019, when the year is 2020… Just saying.

  5. WACO aircraft are pronounced "wah-co" or "wock-o" rather than like the city in Texas. Bonus fact: It's short for the Weaver Aircraft Company. Signed — a guy from Troy, Ohio where they were made. 🙂

  6. So it was illegal? But the state let the federal handle the situation? and then it was too late for the state to do anything by the time they found out the federal did a shit job?

  7. Immediately shut off at the Legal Uninteresting Guy point. LegalEagle. A total bore and way too arrogant. A zero personality and often wrong. Not interested. Bye!

  8. I hope I'm not the only person that read the name McBoyle and thought of the McPoyle's from Always Sunny

  9. Remember back in the old days when the Supreme Court literally let a man get away with stealing a plane? That is literally the most infuriating technicality I have ever heard of. "Planes aren't considered vehicles yet, therefore he didn't commit a federal crime." Give me a fucking break.

  10. This is the video my defense team will play when I get charged for stealing and flying a Falcon 9 across state lines 🤣😂🤣

  11. 00:07 (Subtitles): "…video platform that WENDOVER is par of…"

    -> I knew it! They are one in the same!!!!

  12. someone : steals and crashed an airplane
    supreme court : "ok"

    someone : uses a portion of a song in a video for 0.003 nanoseconds
    supreme court : so you have chosen… death

  13. Pronounced Wah-Co, not Way-Co like the city in TX.  It is an acronym of Weaver Aircraft Company (of) Ohio.  Look it up, learn you aircraft

  14. My constructive feedback is that you tend to speak very fast, perhaps you can slower down a little bit.
    Changing the speed to 0.75x just makes the video sound funny.

    Hope the change will be made, thanks!

  15. Nebula isn't free if you have to pay money to receive it. Which you do. You can get Nebula for the price of Curiosity Stream, but you cannot get Nebula for free.

  16. “Goomon, Oklahoma”? EXCUSE ME??! it’s pronounced, GUY (as in, ‘that guy over there’) MON, Oklahoma.

    – An annoyed Oklahoman

  17. Do you want to know just how badly you pronounced Guymon, Oklahoma?

    Guy-mon ("guy" just like Guy and "mon" like the end of the word Pokemon)

  18. Is the narrator sick? He sounds a bit off, like he has a sore throat, hope you get well soon mr. Narrator (Mr wendover?)

  19. OK, so,,, If I stole a rocket and flew it into space – how do I stand legally on that? (flat earthers need not reply)

  20. afaik there was no "J" in ancient rome and a "J" still doesn't make sense in latin today. I know it's a fancy looking and magically awe inspiring letter, but it doesn't entitle you to use it in latin terms.

  21. Just steal french plane you probably will not break any FEDERAL Law, you need to more specific in the video title because not all as are an USA citizens.

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