Crime and the Legal System

  • What are considered normal and legal ways of gathering evidence and determining guilt? Is torture allowed? Truth spells?

    - Most cities (places people live) will have a elders circle which would determine guilt and punishment. If a particular area has a more advanced legal system, town guards, city watchmen etc. then some basic type of legal system would be in place, possibly as simple as the mayor determining guilt or a trial by a local judge. Juries are not common.

  • Are arbitrary judgements by the lord or landowner allowed, or is there a standard that they are supposed to follow?

    – Typically the elders or town guard would consider it a crime for anyone to pass judgment other than themselves. This rule of thumb may be bent if the person in question is particularly powerful or if the crime was particularly violent. (ie. rape/murder)

  • Is there an appeal system? How “high” can a case go before it is finally settled?

    – Not typically.

  • Is everyone tried in the same courts or are there special courts for special classes of people—for example, are mages tried in specialized Wizard’s Court?

    – Not specifically, but positions of power and prestige do receive preferential treatment in many ways, including looking the other way or very lenient sentences if found guilty.

  • Are there separate courts for civil and criminal matters? For magical and non-magical matters? For humans and non-humans? What are the differences?

    – Typically, no, but certain schools/guilds may become involved if they feel their positions are in jeopardy. This would most likely mean two trials though, not one.

  • What things are considered truly serious crimes and why? (Example: a trade-oriented culture might consider counterfeiting or bootlegging a death-penalty crime; in a place where life is cheap, murder might be something that only results in a small fine.)

    – Murder, Rape, Arson… note: killing someone is only considered murder if they were unarmed (not drawing your weapon is considered unarmed) and not a slave. Killing a slave you own it not murder (more like throwing money away) and killing another persons slaves is more like destruction of property, i.e. a fine commensurate with the slaves value to the owner.

  • What are the punishments for serious versus minor crimes? Are there prisons, or are people punished and released? Are there degrees of punishment—fines, branding, public whippings, removal of body parts, executions—or do they just hang everybody?

    – Most cities – Hanging for series crimes, corporal punishment for moderate ones, public services/humiliation for minor crimes.

  • Who is responsible for catching criminals? Who pays the crook-catchers—the king, the city government, a consortium of merchants, somebody else?

    – Typically the person effected by the crime or their representatives, either friends/family or hired help. note: some people might be able to afford better help then others. In large cities, with a town watch/guards, the guards would also do this to a certain degree.

  • How are the law enforcement officers organized? Into independent precincts, overlapping districts, or just according to whoever wants to hire them?

    – By town/city or Kingdom/Empire depending on size

  • Are there lawyers or advocates? Who can afford them? Who trains them? Are they certified? If so, by who?

    – Not typically, though a person in a prestige’s position could speak for a accused person and would lend their weight to their cause. This wouldn’t typically be done for an exchange of money, though it could be.

  • Are people guilty until proven innocent, innocent until proven guilty, or does it depend on the mood the lord is in when the case comes in front of him? Are there assumptions made about how an accused criminal will be treated?

    – Nothing specific here, depends on who you are and who is upset with you.

  • Are there judges other than the lord, king, or landowner? If so, how are they paid, and by whom? How often are outlying areas likely to see a judge? Is “mob justice” common? How is it viewed by society? Is it legal?

    – In large villages the mayor might be the judge, in larger cities their would be a judge for that city. In very large cities there could be many judges, typically the Kings and Emperors would not get involved, they have better things to do one hopes.

  • Are highwaymen, muggers, bandits, or pirates common or rare? What sorts of crimes would the average citizen be likely to run across during their lifetime?

    – Fairly common outside of ‘civilized’ areas, if you don’t see town guards around, its not civilized… until you get far enough away that the ruffians are preyed upon by larger creatures… :*)

  • Who can make or repeal laws?

    – Kings/Emporers, in rural areas village elders though these most likely follow the closest Kingdoms/Empires laws.

  • How are alleged criminals treated before their trials? How are convicted criminals treated? Do the police, military, or city guard make a practice of roughing up suspects, or is this frowned upon?

    – If you are well know to the folks taking care of you they may treat you well, but typically not so much.

  • Are there laws forbidding certain types of people (peasants, wizards, priests, women) from carrying arms?

    – No, though arming slaves for anything other than gladiatorial combat is considered dim witted at best.

  • Are there laws requiring certain people to be skilled with certain weapons?

    – No.

  • Are certain spells (as opposed to magic generally) illegal? If so, how would a criminal magician be detected? Apprehended? Punished?

    – Not really, Necromancy is pretty much unheard of so there is no specific laws against it. Using magic to kill or steal etc. would be the same as doing the crime in the first place. Some schools/guilds of magic users might have more specific laws/rules which they enforce. Spiritualistic magic isn’t governed by any laws, asking a god to strike down a person, who happens to be struck down is not a crime. The Gods are above the law.

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Crime and the Legal System

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