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What is the criminal justice system like in your world?

What are the laws like, and how often are they enforced? What kind of punishments are there for crimes? What is the conviction rate like for people suspected of an offence? Are there mandatory sentences for any sort of crime? Does your world have the death penalty, and if so, does it have it for non-violent offences? Does it even have life imprisonment, because there are some countries without life imprisonment. What other details can you think of?
 

Saigonnus

Auror
If the seekers and their truth charms are around, the conviction rate is 100% for punishment, it is left up to the discretion of the Seeker, though it generally fits the crime. A thief who steals from a family might have to work (geased) to pay back what they stole.


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If the seekers and their truth charms are around, the conviction rate is 100% for punishment, it is left up to the discretion of the Seeker, though it generally fits the crime. A thief who steals from a family might have to work (geased) to pay back what they stole.

What about more serious crimes?
 

Saigonnus

Auror
For more serious crimes; let's say murder, generally they are kept in a commune, unable to leave and charmed for the rest of their life that they cannot perform acts of violence even in defense of their own lives. It is designed to show them a sense of helplessness that their victims may have felt.

What they make/sell in the commune generally goes to the family for a set period of time; compensation for the lost life.

That is just one of many cultures that inhabit my world .

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For more serious crimes; let's say murder, generally they are kept in a commune, unable to leave and charmed for the rest of their life that they cannot perform acts of violence even in defense of their own lives. It is designed to show them a sense of helplessness that their victims may have felt.

What they make/sell in the commune generally goes to the family for a set period of time; compensation for the lost life.

That is just one of many cultures that inhabit my world .

How is your commune different from a regular prison?
 

pmmg

Vala
For the most prominent culture portrayed in the story, death is a possibility. Few would question if the local lord had the right to pronounce death as a sentence. But I suspect most things are dealt with by something less than death. Fines and imprisonment and banishment and marking would seem more likely. But, like I said in another thread, the story is not about law and laws, and the land is mostly wild, with only a loose understanding of what might be a code of crimes. If I was to fast forward a few hundred years, their might be a more stodgy set of laws and a feudal system to administer them, but not quite there in the current story world.

You seem to ask a lot of questions about legal systems, and crime and punishment. Is there something driving this?
 
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skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
What are the laws like, and how often are they enforced? What kind of punishments are there for crimes? What is the conviction rate like for people suspected of an offence? Are there mandatory sentences for any sort of crime? Does your world have the death penalty, and if so, does it have it for non-violent offences? Does it even have life imprisonment, because there are some countries without life imprisonment. What other details can you think of?

What are your own answer to these questions?
 

Saigonnus

Auror
How is your commune different from a regular prison?

No walls, cells or bars. The area is basically a farming/herding village and charms keep the residents inside the area of effect. They have their own home/tepee/shelter etc... and a few seekers keep the peace.

The "prisoners" are able to pursue nearly any occupation/hobby they choose and are expected to rehabilitate themselves.


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elemtilas

Inkling
Once Law was sitting on the bench
and Mercy knelt a-weeping.
"Clear out!" he cried, "disordered wench!
nor come before me creeping.
Upon your knees if you appear,
tis plain you have no standing here."
Then Justice came. His Honour cried:
"Your status? -- Devil seize you!"
"Amica curie," she replied;
"Friend of the Court, so please you."
"Begone!" he shouted. "There's the door --
I never saw your face before!"


I'll describe a fairly typical capital trial taking place in the great city of Auntimoany.

A Description of a Typical Courtroom and Trial
Perhaps a word could be said here of the courts -- after all, you don't get the priviledge of being judicially walled up or swing from a bronze chain unless first you come before the King's justice. Generally speaking, the court is a place both terrifying and full of splendour. Captial cases are always public affairs and are always heard in the grandest of the city's court rooms. In Old Hoopelle, and in modern Auntimoany, the court room looks something like a church inside: lots of wood panelling and wood benches for the audience to sit on. There's usually a gallery or two some twenty feet above the main floor. Allegories of Justice and Mercy figure prominently in the room's decor, even if actual Justice and Mercy only rarely make an appearance in the room. Towards the centre of the space is a railing that separates the audience from the place where the action happens. In a slightly lower level is a curved dais where the panels of Prosecutors and Advocates argue the case. Another level below them is a round cage-like structure where the condemned is stationed. Along a raised dais beyond this area sit the King's Learned Men, usually 12 doctors and philosophers who argue the merits of the case as laid out by the Advocate and the Prosecutor, and who "read" the attitude and expressions of the condemned and comment on his guilt or innocence based on his actions. High above this tableau and behind an ornate wooden desk sit the panel of three or seven judges. Somber of face and saying nothing during the trial, the chief, who sits in the middle, only strikes an ancient stone martell upon the thick wood of the desk. This signals the start of the trial, and later will signal the end. The space itself is generally quite dark: the prisoner can be seen quite clearly, as light pipes throw a harsh illumination upon his cage; the lawyers are also pretty well lit, though not so brightly. The King's Men sit in semidarkness and the judges can not be discerned at all, unless one of them leans forward and some part of his face catches the light.

During the trial, the bailiff will enter the chamber and bang his cudgel on the floor thrice and call the place into order. The panel of judges, all wearing scarlet red robes and pointed hats, process in from the back, and enter a small doorway near the front where they go up to the bench. Then come the King's Men, all wearing the various colours and robes that denote their speciality or school of philosophy. Then the Advocate and the Prosecutor, wearing black robes and tall horsehair wigs and long white collars. Usually, a single side drum taps a constant beat while all these folks enter. Once all the court are arrayed and settled, a pair of kettle drums strikes up a dirgeful tattoo. Then the condemned arrives to the jeers and hard crust throwing of the crowd. Led by two bailiffs, he is taken down into the cage and secured there. The first bailiff bangs his cudgel on the floor again and the clark reads out the charges and name of the condemned: "Hear all Men and Daine present! Stands accused in these Halls of Justice of capital murther, the heinous and brutal slaying of Widdow Middlewhite, formerly of Stonecutters Row and now awaiting justice in the City Morgue, her killer Wandulf the Butcherman, a blaowman of the same Stonecutters Row. Harken now and know that Justice shall fall upon the rightly accused!"

The usual order of business, once the martell is struck, is for the Prosecutor and Advocate to state their cases, and each gets the right to pose Questions of the condemned criminal. Since Justice is a priviledge that many can not quite afford, the Advocate usually doesn't know a whole lot about the case and will try to sway the judges with flowery rhetoric and Questions that try to put the condemned person in as a good light as he may. The crowd, always looking for a good time at the expence of the man in the cage, rarely falls for it and continues by heckling the poor Advocate. They often cheer when the Prosecutor asks some cutting Question like "Soe, sir crippleshanks, what proof can thee offer their Honoures that you wasn't the one what done in poor Widdow Middlewhite?" The crowd all laugh, because they know the poor bastard in the cage has no more hope than a light frost in Hell's garden of being able to offer any kind of proof that the judges would accept in his defence. They also like the running commentary and cutting wit provided by the King's Men who also have no actual knowledge of the case, but feel quite free to comment on the condemned man's obvious mental, moral, physical or attitudinal deficits. If he is a Daine, it goes all the worse for them -- their innate honesty and fundamental ignorance of human injustice always get the crowd howling.

Needless to say, if you haven't hired a good lawyer and if you haven't brought in your proof and thus can't prove your innocence, you have little hope of winning the trial. The only hope is throw yourself on the mercy of the Court, and as you can imagine, there is precious little of that to be meted out. If you're a member of a certain number of social classes, it's guilty unless proven innocent. Even if you're wealthy, there's no guarantee, but there is a greater likelihood that the trial will be fairer and such often result in a lighter punishment, such as exile, or if circumstances warrant, complete exoneration. While it might be noted that, particularly in old Hoopelle, most Men came off fairly easy for all crimes but capital ones -- perhaps a few years in the mines or other hard labour projects (who do you think hauls all the stones and hods of bricks to build places like the Halls of Penitence!?) -- Daine almost never got set free and rarely end up in the mines. Twas usually the gibbet or the medical college for them. Or both, in their proper order, depending on whether there is a vivisection on the schedule or a plain dissection.

All that remains, really, once the arguments are concluded is for the panel of judges to retire and deliberate on the Penitent's fate. This he will know even before the chief judge speaks -- when the judges return from chambers, all wearing bronze masks now to symbolise impartiality, and the chief puts on his red cap, a low cylindrical affair with a slightly poufy octagonal bit on top, he just knows what will happen next, and judging by the muted gasps and murmurs of satisfaction from the audience, they all know too. The stone martel will again bang hollowly on the ancient wood of the rostrum and the chief judge will speak the only words the Penitent shall have heard from the bench during the whole trial: "Wandalf the Butcherman of Stonecutters Row! Know now that Justice is being done upon your body for the crime of murther, for the Law mandates it, Justice requires it and our Sovereign accedes to it. Hear now o Man and cower before your fate, for the Law commands me hand down to you the Dread Sentence: that you be henceforth braced and banded, be transported from this place to that place where your life shall be made forfeit. It is the sentence of his majesty's Justice that you be taken to the Halls of Amouraz (--undoubtedly a few gasps from the audience at the hearing of the name of that dreadful place, and as often as not, the knees of even the hardest criminal will buckle just a bit--) in the walls of which shall you be immured, where you shall hear naught but your own pitiful moan and where you shall see naught but the darkness engulfing you and where you shall wait until the Lord of Hunger consume your body and at last your mouldering litch shall fall to the floor and your rotting bones shall lie in the dust of it til the end of all worlds." Three bangs of the stone martel signify the end of sentencing, the judges all depart the bench and the bailiffs whisk away the Penitent to await his fate. However, those three terrible bangs of the martel don't signify the end of proceedings -- but rather a simple change of scene, for the theater that is Law and Justice is just setting the scene for Act II...

...
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
There's only one setting where I have this flushed out. There's a "tax" on all citizens that they have to pay in hard labor, two weeks twice a year, in, say, the mines or the factories or other harsh conditions. It's part of being a proud citizen and everyone is expected to do their best. So of course, it also makes for an easy fine for the government to give people extra time in the factories for their crimes.

Or they get pushed off a cliff. One or the other.
 

elemtilas

Inkling
...
Judicial Killing: the Dread Sentence of Death
The term immurement can refer to either a form of punishment, a form of voluntary encellment or even the practice of burying the dead in niches. Built in 1299 at Auntimoany and expanded in 1484, the Halls of Amouraz are a place of punishment where "penitents" are immured in small cells. Some cells are sealed entirely, and serve the double purpose of tomb. Others admit some amount of light and breeze. A fountain of running water is provided and little else. Food is specifically not provided by the prison, though some shrines and churches take it upon themselves to bring bread or cheer to the condemned, thus inadvertently prolonging the torture of the punishment which largely consists of wasting away until death by hunger takes the prisoner.

It is generally thought that the Halls were named for an early king of Auntimoany, but in reality, the word is derived from the Rumnian term immourezar or walling a person up into an inescapable cell.

Most cells are cramped, allowing for no more than enough room to lie down. Some prisoners, generally those of noble birth or wealth, are afforded slightly more commodious accommodations. Their cells might be eight foot by four and contain a chair and small table and perhaps a cot with blankets.

Having been sentenced, our Wandalf the Butcherman will be removed from the harsh splendour of the court room by the bailiffs and brought down into the gaol to his holding cell. It there he will wait some time until his final arrangement are seen to by the constables. Here, he'll get only two simple meals a day and will live only with the fading hope that his last plea to the Emperor's Mercy will be heard with favour. The Emperor, of course, is the fount of all justice and also the court of final appeal. He can overturn the higher court's verdict, mitigate punishment or even exonerate. Wanhope indeed! For few criminals warrant mitigation or exoneration, and quite a few probably merit a harsher punishment yet (which the Emperor also has the right to inflict).

Wandalf will know whether the Emperor has granted him clemency one morning when the gruel and bread trolley comes trundling along and passes his cell by. No food means it will soon be Amouraz for him, and no more hope of mercy! Three days he will have only water during the day and two pints of cider in the evening. If he wishes, a monk or a priest will come to help ease him along the way -- just as they would before a hanging or any other kind of judicial slaying. On the third day, Wandalf will visit a barber who will shear off his hair and shave his face; he'll be taken up to the dock where a waggon will transport him to the Hall. It is red with black wheels and is drawn by an ox painted red. His clothes are taken from him and his leg irons are pinned to the floor of the waggon. Everyone he passes by will know what terrible fate awaits him! Some, out of force of habit, will throw something nasty, or perhaps hard at him. Some may hurl insults. Most, interestingly, only look on in pity, wondering what foul and terrible crime this man could have committed to be riding the Red Waggon! All along the way, a single kettledrum sings out its dirgeful tattoo and soon enough the Red Waggon and its trail of curious onlookers arrive at a beautiful park.

They don't enter the park by the main gate -- that's where folks might go for an afternoon picnic or to go for a stroll among the arbors and formal gardens. Here at this little back gate, approached through a narrow alley behind the University, a secluded trail winds through denser stands of an ancient wood, and opens out into a courtyard of a huge brick and stone edifice. From a distance, it looks quite lovely, with ornate brickwork and tall gabled rooves -- but but once you look closely, you will notice that the windows are all bricked over! There's not an opening anywhere in any exterior wall, apart from a huge iron door set into the stonework within the courtyard. Here, Wandalf may turn to take a last look through the Gate of Death at the trees beyond and weep! For now, the drum stops its constant beat, the constables unpin the Penitent from his seat and drag him through the iron door beyond, into gloom and darkness and muffled moaning. Once beyond the offices of the Constable of Amouraz, the hallways are dimly lit by torches. Every few feet Wandalf will see what looks like a bricked up doorway. Soon, he will come up to a gang of practical masons -- no fancy aprons and handshakes here! It's all trowels and stout bricks and the sad scraping sound of mortar being mixed. His manacles removed, Wandalf is shoved into the cell; his wrists will now be bound by a rope that is drawn through two curious holes in the wall a little way from the door. Here he must stand, tightly bound to the wall, until the masons finish with their work.

They talk about this and that -- one's off for a week holiday up in Angera, he'll be travelling by the caravan train! -- another couple make plans to take their luncheon over at Aunti Lam's, and don't they do a real fine seventy two hour oliphant barbecue over at Auntie Lam's! I'll just bet the poor beastie was hankering to get turned into a seventy two hour barbecue by Auntie Lam! -- but no one talks to Wandalf at all! A half an hour of this passes and, all too soon, their voices are cut off and the last wan light of the torch fades as the last brick slides into place at the top of the arched doorway. The last thing Wandalf hears from the outside world is the mason tapping the brick into place with the handle of his trowel -- tap! tap!

By now, the cement used to hold the bricks is pretty well hard, especially lower down. The constables will place a temporary wooden brace over the fresh brickwork, though, just in case Wandalf tries to break through. Once that's done, the constable that had been holding that strange rope real tight will now let it go -- this will free Wandalf's hands. The rope will snake its way out of the wall and the masons will plug up the two holes, cutting Wandalf's little world off from the outside forever...
 
Good question! I'm really enjoying seeing what everyone else has in their world and as always, you guys and gals never disappoint.

For my world ... the culture in the west basically hands out the death penalty for most offenses - the variation and intensity of torture accompanying the public deaths is commensurate to the severity of the crime. That being said, the laws are quite simple and the majority of people being executed are convicted on suspicion of using Ancient magic.

In the east ... the cultures out there handle everything within each individual community meaning its up to the discretion of the village elders, but really they're in farming communities and crime in general is less problematic.

There's also a region nestled between the two which is more or less a den of thieves (and foreign merchants). They pay homage to the harsh monarch of the west but generally don't enforce most of the laws. They're Libertarian for anyone lucky enough to be free ... slaves are obviously under repressive conditions with punishments ranging from flogging, stocks, removal of fingers, to straight up beheading.
 
My universe, the Songsphere, has no crimes nor punishments even in the three or four dimensional worlds. In the higher dimensional worlds, even the idea of hurting another is completely incomprehensible to those who live there.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Hey, Crystalline. Just for the sake of argument, what about accidental harm? I heard four-dimensional fender-benders can be awful. :)

Seriously, though. All harm? Harm is done in the course of surgery--amputation is an example. There are lots of instances of doing small harm in order to stave off a greater harm.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Depends on where your at in my main world.

Cimmar is pretty much 'rule by the strong.' Aristocrats (Boyars) can pretty much kill a commoner for looking at them cross-eyed, though flogging is a more common punishment.

Goblin/Hobgoblin cities, well, some of those, even murder isn't exactly a criminal offense. Has to do with breeding rights and social status.

Main nation, though, is Solaria. Two tier legal system, three tiers if you count magical offences.

Bottom of the heap (well, almost) are the plebes or commoners. They do get a formal hearing before a magistrate, who can offer a verdict for lesser offences like theft or simple assault. That usually warrants fines, hard labor, that sort of thing, offence depending. More serious cases (murder, serious theft) require a tribunal and can result in death or enslavement.

The middle class (Equestrians) and the Aristocracy get formal trials with lawyers, witnesses, and all that jazz - but its still trial by Tribunal. They also get to skate on a lot of minor offences, and sometimes get leniency for the more serious crimes.

Mages and magical crimes get judged by the church. Still a tribunal (of church judges) but their verdicts have to be reviewed/approved by an imperial magistrate. Potential charges here include blasphemy, demon conjuring, magical deception for personal gain, among others.
 
Skip: What's a fender-bender? If you mean rear-ending someone in a car, they don't have cars in the Songsphere; everyone either walks/flies/swims or teleports. Accidental harm does occur, and in that case the being who indirectly or directly caused the harm would either attempt to heal the situation right away or, if the harm is to many, many beings, heal the situation in their next life. The latter is the driving point of my first book, White Darkness.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I did not mean to be literal, Entity. Sorry! Now I'm clear on accidental harm, which means your characters *can* envisage causing harm, but not doing it deliberately. But how about my other example, causing a lesser harm to save a greater? I'll venture to guess that there would be no amputation because your beings have the ability to repair even catastrophic injury without such drastic measures.
 

Tom

Istar
I haven't given it much thought, but I'll contribute what I have come up with. The two main cultures of my world, Yianlai and Vazkyrohk, have very different justice systems--I set up the two cultures as foils for each other, so they're opposites in almost all respects.

The Yianlai are a hierarchical society with strict class guidelines, and their day-to-day life is influenced greatly by religion, which takes a strong political role in their culture. Their laws are said to be given to them by the moon goddess, Vaella, and a copy is kept in each temple to her. When someone commits a crime, they are brought before the lord of their city or province and the six judges, who are usually priests or nobility. Each social class has different laws and a different trial procedure, with the lower classes often having to wait for a public hearing in the lord's hall, and nobility usually having a private trial. Mages, however, stand trial before the high priest and their judges in the temple, as magic is seen as requiring spiritual attention. It isn't exactly considered evil, but mages aren't trusted in Yianlai. They are believed to be easier swayed by dark forces.

The traditional punishment for major crimes such as murder and rape is execution. Crimes such as robbery or smuggling merit the loss of a hand. Minor crimes carry a prison sentence, but the sentence can be traded for devotion in the temple for an equal period of time. Debtors are either put in prison or sentenced to a certain amount of time in slavery, depending on how much they owe. Of course, these punishments all depend on social status. A noble will not lose a hand for smuggling, but may serve a prison sentence. A commoner could be executed for stealing, if the item stolen had high enough monetary value.

The Vazkyrohk follow Kzeshiel's Code, a collection of over 500 laws that were laid down by the dictator warlord who united the warring tribes of Vazkyrohkol and led them to drive out the invaders who had subjugated them. The Code is completely secular, as religion has no political or judicial influence in Vazkyrohkol. Its laws detail how to govern every crime that could arise, from petty thievery to settling violent territorial disputes.

When accused of a crime, a person will go to the judicial council of their city-state, which is assembled by a public vote. There they will present their case in a trial. Vazkyrohko laws are strict but fair, and everyone is treated equally regardless of social status or magical ability. If someone is unsatisfied with the way their case is handled by the city-state council, they can request a trial held before the chieftains of Vazkyrohkol at the annual gathering.

Most punishments are monetary fines, although more serious crimes may carry a prison sentence, and the most serious are punishable by exile. The judicial system, however, operates alongside the honor codes of the Vazkyrohk people, which are far older and less forgiving. Taking personal revenge is seen as a duty, and no real law stands to incriminate those who carry out vengeance, only ensuring that it is carried out in a humane way and for justifiable reasons.
 
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