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Arrested for Heroism

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How dare you save the lives of millions!

"I just did 80% of your job, and right there, that's how you repay me?"
Peter Parker, The Amazing Spider-Man

While villains often face terrible fates, the life of a hero isn't always a happy one either. This subtrope of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished pits two heroes against each other.

The trope starts with a bad thing about to happen. Maybe local supervillain Alice is about to rob a bank. Superbob suddenly appears and asks her to stop. A fistfight ensues and Officer Carol arrives. In other words, normally Bob would expect Carol to help him, but as far as Carol is concerned, Bob was the villain. He might be charged with anything from Police Brutality to attempted murder to a charge that had nothing to do with the incident. Sometimes the issue is resolved in a Kangaroo Court and the hero is given Soap Opera Justice. In the worst case scenario, having been fed up with being accused by the others, it can result in Then Let Me Be Evil situation.

Compare Crime of Self-Defense, Miscarriage of Justice, The Lopsided Arm of the Law, Police Brutality Gambit, Wounded Gazelle Gambit, Persona Non Grata, Why Did You Make Me Hit You?, Et Tu, Brute?.

There can be any number of reasons for the decision to arrest the hero:

  • The arresting officer might turn out to actually be a Dirty Cop, Jerkass, Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop, etc.
  • It might be normal in that setting, because:
  • The authorities are honestly concerned that the hero might:
  • The police are honestly concerned that arresting the villain will backfire, because:
    • The police will be accused of having a double standard if they ignore the hero's questionable methods.
    • The villain will likely be acquitted without airtight evidence.
    • The villain is known to be a Villain with Good Publicity, Magnificent Bastard, etc., and they suspect the villain will use his arrest to his advantage somehow.
    • The police had a plan to roll up the villain's whole operation, which the hero screwed up by acting prematurely.
  • Often it's a simple case of bad timing. The cops never actually saw the villain do anything wrong, they have only the hero's word that it was the villain who broke into the Elaborate Underground Base. Worse, the cops may arrive just in time to see the hero in the middle of something that looks bad out of context.
    • Alternatively, the villain may set the whole thing up, tricking the hero into doing something wrong in front of witnesses while he himself acts perfectly innocent.
  • If the perpetrator is a Superhero and on the wrong side of a Super Registration Act, this is pretty much inevitable at some point or another.
    • It's also inevitable if use of superhuman powers or "superhuman vigilantism" is outright banned, or if the hero's activities have been otherwise outlawed.
  • The authorities are not in on the Masquerade, and don't believe that the person the hero attacked was a demon or an evil cultist or what have you.
  • It is a Crapsack World.
  • In deconstructive works, the authorities may simply be unambiguously correct. After all, even if Doctor Baron von Doominator IS planning to rob a bank at some indefinite point in the future, if he's not actually in the middle of committing the crime then assaulting him on the street or unlawfully imprisoning him does, in a western democracy, severely violate his civil rights and are themselves crimes. Especially if the hero goes Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! and ends up being tried (and even doing time) because of his "heroic act".
    • In an optimistic deconstruction, this will cause the hero to re-examine his methods and come up with a better way to do things. In a pessimistic story, they may have actually made the situation worse by destroying their own credibility when it was important that their warning be believed, and lose a round with the villains.
  • Can result in being locked up In Prison with the Rogues, the ultimate irony where the hero is sent to the same prison as the criminals they previously put behind bars.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Touma Kamijou occasionally gets arrested or at least detained by the police after saving the day, because the police are not in on the Masquerade, so he can't explain why he is in a suspicious circumstance.
  • In Codename: Sailor V, Wakagi initially wanted to bring Sailor V in because he felt her actions were humiliating the police (and indeed Minako plainly admitted she stopped normal crime for just that reason, before her Chronic Hero Syndrome kicked in) and for her vigilantism. The vigilantism accuse was endorsed by his boss, superintendent general Natsuna Sakurada... as an excuse to cover the fact she was a fan of Sailor V and just wanted a chance to try and get her in the police. This is eventually abandoned when Sakurada befriends Minako and then discovers she's Sailor V, as now she both know she is justified in her actions-and has her phone number to try and convince her to join the police.
  • Happens to Makoto Naegi in Side: Future of Danganronpa 3 as a consequence of saving the Remnants of Despair during Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. He's shown in handcuffs in promotional artwork, and the plot of Side: Future is kicked off when he's brought to the Future Foundation headquarters to stand trial for treason.
  • Archer of Fate/stay night wandered the world fighting in multiple wars to save as many people as he could. Due to his involvement in so many conflicts it was easy for a criminal to frame him as the cause of one such war, leading to Archer's arrest and execution.
  • The first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex climaxes with Section 9 trying to avoid this. A leak to the public media of their existence set them up be used as scapegoats for a massive government scandal. This trope is played straight in the 2nd season when Togusa is arrested for using his handgun when he tried to save a distressed civilian. He was technically an off-duty police officer at the time.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Near the start of Diamond is Unbreakable, Josuke stops a hostage situation with his Stand Crazy Diamond, but gets arrested because his recklessness endangered the hostage anyway and the policemen cannot see Stands.
    • In Mista's backstory in Golden Wind, he witnessed a man raping a woman, and for once in his careless life, he decided to take initiative and stop the man. The man unfortunately had three goons who proceeded to shoot at Mista, but he somehow managed to dodge all their bullets, and shot the man and his goons in the head. He proceeded to then be arrested and sentenced to 15-to-30 years in prison because the prosecution wouldn't believe such a ridiculous story, and he was only bailed out because Bucciarati used his status as gangster to have the ruling overturned.
  • In My Hero Academia, because of the regulated nature of Quirks, it is against the law for anyone to use their powers to help people or fight against villains whether it was for self-defense or not unless they are certified to do so.
    • Iida, Midoriya and Todoroki nearly find themselves in legal trouble when they defeat the wanted villain Stain because they weren't professional heroes, but the police chief sweeps the incident under the rug and credits Endeavor with Stain's arrest. Similarly, after the aforementioned three, Kirishima and Yaoyorozu embark on an unauthorized mission to rescue Bakugo, Aizawa announces that he'd have had all five and those who knew about the rescue attempt and didn't report it expelled if not for All Might's retirement.
    • This ends up being deconstructed, as it's shown that the oppressive regulations have the ordinary members of the public either becoming too scared of repercussions to lift a finger to help anyone else & developing Bystander Syndrome, or Driven to Villainy (or vigilantism) by the unfairness of it all. One prominent example being Gentle Criminal, who had his life ruined by the legal system after a botched rescue attempt and sought Fame Through Infamy as a consequence.
  • Re: Cutie Honey: Natsuko initially attempts to do this to Honey, as she believes her battles with Panther Claw do more damage than good. She does warm up to her over time though. Like, a lot...
  • World Trigger: C-Rank agents are forbidden from using their Triggers unless authorized, in part to prevent them from trying to play hero when they aren't capable of it, so when Osamu does so to save his classmates from Neighbors he's taken into Border custody to discuss his punishment. Some higher-ups advocate for him to be kicked out of Border, but thanks to Jin putting in a good word for him he's let off the hook.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: In the story "Pastoral", in the Back Story, Roustabout brought two TransGene vice presidents and claimed that they had kidnapped him and others, and performed experiments on them that killed the rest. They are acquitted, and he's convicted of breaking and entering. The character learning this is at first willing to accept the verdict, but later sees evidence that it was a Miscarriage of Justice.
  • Batman: A rookie cop attempts this to Batman in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns series, as the rookie comes around a corner just in time to watch Bats deliver a spine-snapping kick to a thug (and not soon enough to have seen the gun the thug was holding to Batman's head). Batman ignores him in favor of shaking down the thug. The rookie's senior partner offers sage advice: "Don't try it, kid. He's being patient with you as it is."
  • Captain America:
    • As it happens, the page image of Captain America is an aversion and a misleading cover. To be sure, Cap was indeed imprisoned at Ryker's Island... but voluntarily, with the warden's knowledge, in order to test the prison's security by attempting to escape. The real thing did happen to Bucky Barnes when he took on the mantle of Captain America... twice. He was first imprisoned by the U.S., then again by Russia as soon as the American court declared him innocent.
    • During his stint as The Captain, Steve Rogers gets arrested for heroism a couple of times, since he no longer had government sanction to act as a superhero. The first was in Las Vegas for helping to stop some villains despite being warned off by the local cops, and the second was for saving Washington, D.C. (and, more directly, the President) from the Viper's scheme to turn the population into snake-people, though this time it was the Commission on Superhuman Activities (the government organization that had forced Rogers to resign as Captain America in the first place) that took him in. Both cases were related, since the Vegas caper was an ad-hoc audition for the villains to join the Serpent Society as moles for the Viper. And the head of the C.S.A. at the time was himself a mole for the Red Skull, deliberately ignoring a command from the president to pardon Cap (in gratitude for being saved from being snaked up).
  • Civil War: The Crisis Crossover and the general status quo afterward consisted of Marvel doing this to their superheroes and then wondering why people thought Iron Man was a jerk for setting this plot up in the first place.
    • Iron Man also combined this with some truly oppressive methods to contain these "criminal vigilantes." Caught stopping a crime without a government license? Get sent to the Negative Zone with dozens of supervillains.
    • One of the most blatant examples was She-Hulk. One of the few members on the registration side that was likeable, Jennifer Walters spent Civil War mostly on the sidelines helping file lawsuits for both sides. At the end of Civil War, she's working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to train a team to fight Hulk's standard enemies. For those who weren't following her specifically, it becomes a shock when she suddenly disappears from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s roster. It turns out she got rather pissed when she found out that Tony Stark sent Hulk into space (and lied about it to her to get Jen to sleep with him) and punched him (when he was in armor). Stark took this as a perfect reason to inject her with nanites that removed her powers, and then fired her for her "uncontrollable behavior". (Stark seemed to forget, of course, that Jen is a lawyer; later in the World War Hulk storyline, she sued him to force him to deactivate the nanites permanently.)
  • Daredevil: This happens to the White Tiger, as he tries to break up a robbery.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones: In issue #3, Indy stops an explosion intended to bury an army camp under an avalanche of rock by throwing the fused keg of blasting powder down the hill where it explodes safely away from the camp. He then settles down to wait, figuring that the army will come to investigate and he can explain the situation to the, He falls asleep and awakens to find the army arresting him as the saboteur who planted the explosives.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: Mind-controlling supervillain Universo once secretly took control of the government and passed laws forbidding the Legion from using their powers. When several members use their powers to save people during a monorail accident, they are arrested and sent to a prison planet.
  • Madame Mirage: In the backstory, superheroism and supervillainy was outlawed. The superheroes turned themselves in — and were promptly sent to jail. The supervillains, of course, just went underground, meaning that they were all pretty much still at large and the people who could have stopped them were languishing in jail. Yeah, bit of an own goal there.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: Paperinik was once arrested by the Time Police for helping The Organization to steal a weapon from the Time Police. However he had a damn good reason to do that: they needed it to save the universe from being erased.
  • Powers: Almost occurs to several secondary characters repeatedly.
  • Runaways: The Runaways were constantly threatened with this during their early years, because the police were under their parents' control and Iron Man disliked the idea of underage superheroes.
  • Sensation Comics: While working to take down a group of thieves with Steve Trevor Wonder Woman gets some unwanted aid from some leprechauns who bring the stolen loot to her trying to be helpful when she and Steve were just trying to find where it had been stashed and then alert the police so that they have evidence tying the "Shark" to the thefts. "Shark" realizes what is happening and calls the police on Wonder Woman to claim she's the one whose been stealing things before she even knows what the leprechauns have done, so when the police arrive they find her with a huge pile of stolen goods and arrest her for the thefts.
  • Spider-Man: Spider-Man, being a classic example of a Hero with Bad Publicity, occasionally has to flee police trying to bring him in for some crime he supposedly committed (or simply "for questioning").
  • Superman: A more complicated version than usual happened in the Back Story of one story. Orn-Zu, one of the few Kryptonians to believe Jor-El's claims that their planet was doomed, attempted to kidnap a large number of Krypton's children to take them off-world before the disaster. The authorities thought he was just a regular child kidnapper and sent him into the Phantom Zone.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool: Gwenpool foils a bank robbery by killing the robbers with her guns and a grenade, which damages the building. She expects to be rewarded and showered with praise, but the citizens are understandably terrified of her and she gets arrested. Fortunately for her, the police officer driving the car decides to quit and releases her in exchange for all her money. From the description you can guess she's a Destructive Savior on her best days.
  • Watchmen:
    • Depending on your definition of heroism, this may have been what happened to Rorschach halfway through the series.
    • In Before Watchmen: Minutemen, Silk Spectre's agent averted this during the solo phase of her career by making constant "donations" to the "widows and orphans fund". The police probably would have been justified in this case: many of Silk Spectre's acts of heroism were, in fact, staged - the villains were often actors, and the places getting "robbed" were in on the whole thing, hoping that the headlines would mean free publicity.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Peter is constantly on the run from police as superpowered vigilantism is actively prosecuted in Izuku's universe.
  • In Christmas Memories Harry takes a wallet from a nearby thief. Before he can return it to the victim, she sees it in his hands and starts hitting him with her cane while yelling for the police, which results in him being arrested.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, George successfully defeats several monsters from The Book of Characters and rips the book in half, thus exposing the villain behind the chaos as one of the librarians. Except that when more librarians show up and find George clutching half of the Book, they automatically assume he was the bad guy and zap him with a paralysis spell—thus allowing the evil librarian, actually a fake, to escape. To make matters worse, after a halfhearted apology, they hit him with a huge fine for ripping up the rare and valuable book.
  • Kings of Revolution. Boy, do the TSAB not know when to stop going after Zero for helping the Japanese, especially when the Britannians are in league with the fanfic's Big Bad.
  • The original version of The Night Unfurls has this trope subverted in the first chapter. Kyril has been killing off bands of orcs, monsters and bandits throughout his time in Eostia to get paid. While Kyril himself would not call this "heroism", those who find themselves to be troubled by those marauding bands would. Eventually, he gains so much attention from his high body count, that the ruler of Eostia, Celestine, aims to secure a meeting with him by having her agents bring him to the throne room. Kyril initially thinks that he is somehow being judged for a crime. Celestine reassures him that this is not the case — her intention is to acquire a skilled agent to end the Forever War by bringing her rival, Olga, to her alive. He accepts her request.
  • In Chapter 63 of The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, Hermione breaks the Statute of Secrecy to save a Muggle man she finds dying in the street. She promptly gets shipped to Azkaban.
  • Servants of Remnant: In the story "A Sun for the Schnee", shortly after Karna saves Willow Schnee and her family from the White Fang, her husband Jacques has him arrested. Fortunately, James Ironwood lets him go after seeing that he has done nothing wrong and saved them.
  • Immediately after Ichigo defeats Aizen in Swinging Pendulum, he is arrested by Central 46 and sent to prison without trial. Ichigo got off lightly; the Visored were executed for their help in the war effort.

    Films — Animated 
  • Green Lantern: Beware My Power: In his first scene, John stops a group of thugs from lighting a homeless person on fire. Some cops apprehend him and consider charging him for assaulting the thugs, but decide against it, since arresting a decorated former marine would look bad.
  • The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible gets sued for "saving someone who didn't want to be saved", the person in question being a man who had jumped off a building to commit suicide. This leads to more lawsuits and the eventual government banning of superheroes. In the sequel, the family members are arrested at gunpoint and brought to the police station after another act of heroism. Although they were released from custody shortly afterward.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Attack the Block, the main teens are implicated in mugging a woman. In the end, after fighting off an alien invasion, they're arrested for that crime as well as blamed for all the alien-related deaths.
  • Subverted in Casino Royale (2006). A terrorist puts a small detonator on a fuel truck with the intention of blowing up an airliner. En route, James Bond fights with the terrorist (causing several crashes), but he gets away and a bruised and bloody Bond barely manages to stop the truck before stumbling out and being arrested while the terrorist looks on not too far away. But when he triggers the detonator, he finds out that Bond found the bomb and pinned it on the terrorist. Cut to Bond smirking when the terrorist blows himself up.
  • District 9: One of Wikus' friends is arrested for exposing MNU's illegal genetic program. Though it was actually a justified arrest: corporate espionage.
  • In The Golden Child, Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy) acquires the one magical dagger capable of killing the demonic bad guy and the titular messianic figure. And the demonic Big Bad immediately tries to have him arrested for theft of the artifact. Jarell outwits the demon by asking to be arrested, knowing the authorities will take the dagger into evidence until trial, out of the demon's reach. The demon quickly recants his accusations.
    Jarell: My brother's forgiven me! Kee, Dr Hong, Brother Numsy has forgiven me. (Gives the demon a big kiss on the cheek.) Dear brother! Thank you, you're wonderful!
  • Werner Herzog's version of Nosferatu ends on a perfect example of this, as Van Helsing is arrested for the murder of the illustrious Count Dracula.
  • In The Rainmaker, Kelly (Claire Danes) was charged with murder after she took the rap for Rudy Baker killing her abusive husband with the same bat he had been using on her. She's released because it was, with either person, a clear case of self defense.
  • In Reign Over Me, Don Cheadle was stalked and sexually harassed by Saffron Burrows. After taking the appropriate response to the harassment (asking her to leave and ending their doctor-patient relationship), she sued him for sexual harassment. Later on however, the two talk it out and settle the matter privately.
  • Van Helsing is a wanted murderer because so many of the monsters he kills (like Hyde) turn back into humans when they die.

  • At the end of Volume 4 of The Beginning After the End, Arthur gets arrested by the Lances in the aftermath of the attack on Xyrus Academy on the orders of the Council. This elicits a wave of protests among the survivors of the attack as Arthur's intervention had been what put an end to it in the first place, but Arthur and his bond Sylvie are taken away regardless. Even the protests from Curtis and Kathyln Glayder, whose parents are part of the Council, can do nothing to stop him from being taken away. Not helping the matter is that one of Lances, Bairon, is the older brother of Lucas Wykes, whom Arthur had just killed due to his role in carrying out the attack. As it turns out, this is all part of a gambit by Agrona and the Vritra. As the Council has been compromised by the Vritra (the Greysunders are willing savants and the Glayders are being cowed out of love for their children), Agrona intends to have them hand over Arthur and Sylvie to him. It is only thanks to the intervention of the Asuras Windsom and Aldir in purging the Council of corruption (including killing the Greysunders) that Arthur and Sylvie are not handed over.
  • Happens to Tavi in Codex Alera. The purported justification hits this trope perfectly, but it's really a political battle.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden himself often has no worse enemy than his own side. The causes are numerous - his genuinely Dark and Troubled Past puts him under a certain amount of legitimate suspicion and a great deal of irrational suspicion from Inspector Javert types in the White Council. Rumor has him in league with "Gentleman Johnny" Marcone, the chief crime boss of Chicago, mostly because he kind of is, very much against his will. He has a bad habit of withholding important information from allies to try to protect them. Maybe most importantly, as much as he brings the bad guys down, many of his methods are, well, still totally illegal.
    • At the beginning of the third book, Harry and Michael sneak into a hospital's infancy ward to take out a crazed ghost that had put the whole wing to sleep and was killing the babies. When they defeat her, thereby saving the entire room full of children, the security guards wake up and burst in. They see a shady-looking guy with a big stick and a trenchcoat and another one with an honest-to-God broadsword. Michael whispers, "Don't worry. Let me do the talking." Chapter break: "I can't believe they arrested us."
    • When well-meaning but obstructionist detectives show up in one book and harass Harry because they don't believe his story, he then launches into a tirade lampshading this as soon as Murphy shows up and extricates him. To a lesser extent, happens to Murphy later in the same book.
    • Harry is starting to get better about trusting people, but now he has the Black Council to worry about. Just like Disneyland.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: Georgia suffers from a case of "fired for exposing the daughter of someone important as a cyberbully" at the end of book 3. She can finish out the current semester, but will need a new job afterward.
  • In the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter is forced to use magic outside school to defend himself and Dudley from two Dementors. He's promptly expelled from Hogwarts, un-expelled when Dumbledore reminds the Ministry they don't actually have the authority to do that, and put on trial. The Ministry only goes to such lengths to discredit Harry since they don't believe Voldemort is back and don't want anyone else to either. It turns out that it was a Ministry official, Umbridge, who sent them after him in the first place, and she gets away with it too.
  • In The Hedge Knight, Dunk gets arrested for beating up Prince Aerion Targaryen to protect the puppeteer who portrayed the death of a dragon in one of her puppet shows.
  • Elijah, the titular Last Mage is so freakishly powerful the authorities kind of have trouble trusting him. Despite being an All-Loving Hero, he ends up imprisoned.
  • Davos Seaworth of A Song of Ice and Fire once rescued a besieged, starving castle by sneaking through a blockade and delivering badly needed supplies. Lord Stannis Baratheon rewarded him with a knighthood for it. But Davos was also a known smuggler, and Stannis did not pardon him for it, and cut the first finger joints off his left hand as punishment. Davos considers it tough but fair, and remains loyal.
  • In Victoria, the vigilante protagonists' initial attempts to defeat the drug dealers infesting their neighborhood with non-violent means ends up with many of their allies arrested by the corrupt authorities for violating the criminals' "rights". This is one reason for why they increasingly drop the "non-" part later on.
  • Justin Allard gets this treatment in the Warrior trilogy, specifically early right in the first book. In charge of a unit of trainee MechWarriors in light machines out of an exercise, they get ambushed by Liao troops and he in particular finds himself in single combat against an enemy warrior in a Rifleman that outmasses his own Valkyrie by a factor of two. He doesn't win, but acquits himself well enough that that enemy 'Mech never enters the battle proper even after he's lost his own machine and one arm...only to find out upon eventual recovery that (because nobody else actually saw that fight and his own half-Capellan heritage that's helped him connect with the locals now makes him an ideal suspect) he's on trial on trumped-up charges of collusion with the enemy. And the Kangaroo Court finds him guilty ...thereby setting off the chain of events that will land him in the arenas on Solaris VII and ultimately in the position of one of House Liao's own head spymasters.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens quite frequently on Arrow. One of the most notable incidents, being the only one to carry over from the end of one season to the beginning of the next and then actually lasting several episodes, was when Oliver turns himself in to the FBI, despite being acquitted of vigilante charges in Star City in exchange for immunity for his team. The first few episodes of season 7 have him in prison, trying to survive and keep a low profile hoping for an early release with a handful of the show's previous villains gunning for him.
  • In the 1960s TV Batman, Batman is sued by The Riddler for assault after Batman burst in on him pointing a gun at someone. The gun turned out to be a cigarette lighter, and all part of The Riddler's Batman Gambit.
  • It happened on the series Bored to Death at the end of the first episode.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Faith was once arrested for indecent exposure after saving a bus load of nuns from vampires. (She was naked at the time.)
  • In the Castle episode "Time Will Tell", villain Ward is beating up Castle and Beckett and is about to kill Castle when Simon Doyle shows up and drives him off. Beckett promptly arrests Doyle for having escaped police custody earlier.
  • Charmed:
    • Mostly averted, since the demons sometimes dissolve into flame, but the Charmed Ones did sometimes got in trouble for being in the same alley with a fresh corpse and a ceremonial dagger. Even when they did have a friend on the force, they eventually got into serious trouble with the law for killing demons in ways that did leave behind bodies. The latter was technically a crime anyway, but for those that know the whole story (like the viewers), it should count.
    • In one episode, Chris gets arrested for stealing a car in order to chase a bad guy.
  • Dexter: Rita's abusive ex, Paul, gets drunk one night and tries to rape her, and Rita knocks him out with a baseball bat. Next episode, Rita's being charged with abuse. Ironically, in real life several states, including Florida, are usually a bit more biased.
  • Game of Thrones: In the early days of TV Tropes, this trope might have been called "The Davos."
    • Davos' smuggling of supplies into Storm's End won him Stannis' lifelong respect and patronage, but unfortunately Stannis does not consider rewarding heroism and punishing crime to be mutually exclusive. So Davos was knighted for his heroism and lost four fingertips for his previous smuggling. This actually increases Davos' respect for Stannis.
    • After managing to find his way back to Dragonstone after the battle, Davos immediately calls Stannis and Melisandre out for their moping and burning dissenters, and eventually pulls a knife on Melisandre. Stannis reacts by throwing him in a dungeon.
    • Soon after being released, Davos gets rearrested for freeing a prisoner to prevent another Human Sacrifice, and only narrowly avoids execution by revealing the Night's Watch missive about the White Walkers marching on The Wall and convincing Stannis that he's too valuable a counsellor for the war to come, as well as some unexpected support from Melisandre who claims Davos has a further part to play.
      Gendry: Why are you helping me?
      Davos: Because it's the right thing to do... And because I'm a slow learner.
  • Happened in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys when people started imitating Hercules with disastrous results.
  • Knight Rider:
    • Michael was arrested several times for his efforts to catch the bad guy. Happened often enough that KITT once complained about how much he hated being impounded.
    • Happens to Mike in the 2008 sequel series, where he openly wonders if being arrested is going to become a regular occurrence.
  • The Last Kingdom: After spying on the Viking army and bringing word back to the West Saxons, Uhtred and Brida are imprisoned as hostages to their information while the battle is fought.
  • In Lois & Clark:
    • One episode had Superman saved the life of a musician, who then turned around and sued the Man of Steel for breaking his arm.
    • Lex Luthor's schemes causes the area around Metropolis to experience summer-like weather in November. Since it is known that Superman's powers were derived from sunlight, the theory going around was that he was causing the heat wave, and subsequently forbidden by a judge from performing any heroics. When he defies that order to save a life, the police arrest him for breaking the decree. Later, in holding, a man was taunting him ("Tugging on Superman's cape") when the guy accidentally hits another detainee, then wants Supes to help him. Superman just steps aside and says, "Sorry."
  • Ms. Marvel (2022): Most of the pain Kamala Khan endures through the show occurs because she is caught by social media using her newly-discovered powers to save someone who fell off a building and the Department of Damage Control immediately decided to arrest her as an unknown superhuman, a decision they have decided to enforce by any means necessary, including deploying Stark E.D.I.T.H. Attack Drones (capable of devastating a whole city, which they did a few months ago) in the middle of New Jersey.
  • In the NCIS episode "Semper Fortis", a retired Navy Corpsman gave first aid to three people who were in a car accident, saving the lives of two of them, and was arrested by the police when they arrived at the accident for practicing medicine without a license, because she wasn't a certified EMT. Gibbs, the survivors of the crash, and the family of the one who died all side with the ex-sailor, and do what they can to get her a reduced sentence. In real life, she would have been protected by Good Samaritan laws; any attempt to prosecute her would've been thrown out.
  • The boys from Supernatural have to constantly evade the authorities, unless they want to be tried for multiple murders (various human-form monsters or possessed humans), grave desecration (having to burn the remains of a ghost), etc. On the other hand, they do commit other crimes (credit card fraud and cheating at games) to support their monster-hunting lifestyle, but those are secondary to the crimes they get charged for while actually doing a heroic thing. On top of the murders, they've been charged with kidnapping and armed robbery. They've also had shapeshifting monsters impersonating them as Doppelgangers in a violent multi-state serial-murder and robbery spree (so they wouldn't be around with their heroics to interfere with the monsters' plans), so they get framed for stuff they really, really didn't do. (The only reason they could relax a bit before this happened was the authorities thought they were dead.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Call of Cthulhu, investigators who attack or kill Cthulhu Mythos cultists can easily get in trouble with the law.
    • In the supplement Terror from the Stars, the "Field Manual of the Theron Marks Society" explains how killing Cthulhu Mythos cultists can cause the investigators to have problems with the authorities.
      Another problem with human cultists is that the law frowns particularly harshly at open murder of them. Unlike Cthulhuoid monstrosities, deceased humans don't melt away, leaving no tell-tale evidence behind.
    • The Cthulhu Companion has a section about how dealing with Cthulhu Mythos worshippers can cause invetigators to end up in prison.
      Intrepid investigators often run afoul of the law, for the law is built to adjudicate routine human conduct, not extraordinary inhuman activity. Investigators handle problems by blowing up the mine, burning down the house or beheading the sorcerer: solutions frequently considered despicable in a grand jury report. Society can act like a perverse parent, punishing the investigator for doing good.
    • The Fungi from Yuggoth. On the Day of the Beast, Edward Chandler will summon the Beast (an avatar of Nyarlathotep) in Egypt. If the investigators kill him to prevent this and the Egyptian authorities capture them, the investigators will have to either prove Chandler's guilt or be arrested for murder.
  • Adventures in Arkham Country adventure "With Malice Aforethought". The investigators discover an insane asylum which has had all of its staff murdered by a Cthulhu Mythos creature. When the investigators manage to stop the creature's rampage, they are arrested by the police and tried for the killings.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • Like Call of Cthulhu above, player characters in Hunter: The Vigil risk running afoul of authority. Well, it's kind of inevitable when the authority is likely to be controlled by vampires or mages. Defied by Task Force VALKYRIE (or VASCU, or Division Six, or the Barrett Commission), since they belong to the (U.S.) government. In the case of Division Six, they are immune to this trope because they are unwitting pawns of those who don't want humankind to Awaken into magic.
    • Any player characters in the New World of Darkness, really. The Werewolves are especially prone to this. You just want to be a good werewolf and hunt spirits who don't know their place, but good luck doing it without: 1) humans ganging-up on you, 2) The Pure and their spirit allies stabbing you from behind at the most unfortunate moment.
    • And just to reinforce the Crapsack World aspect of it, part of the job of the previously mentioned government Hunters is to enforce this trope on everyone else. Murder of a mad wizard or berserk werewolf is still murder, and burning down a vampire's hideout is still arson...
    • To make matters worse, most Hunters basically are criminals, hunting supernaturals pretty much on the power of pure Fantastic Racism rather than limiting themselves to real dangers or even investigating enough to know a mad archmage from a hedge-witch with a power set revolving around brewing the perfect cup of tea.
    • Princesses from the fan-made supplement Princess: The Hopeful deserve a special mention, as they are possibly the only kind of supernatural beings to be unambiguously good and heroic (the few exceptions being at worse Well Intentioned Extremists); yet, as demonstrated in Hunter: The Vigil – Dark and Light, most Hunters still want them dead like the others, either because they mistake them for witches, met with the aforementioned extremists first and think they are the same, consider all supernatural creatures as monsters, or just don't like being told what they should do by people they perceive as self-righteous idealists.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, The Warden (and Alistair, if he's in your party at the time), get charged with the murder of Arl Howe whilst rescuing Queen Anora who is being held captive in his Estate. Made even worse when Anora accuses you of being the kidnappers.
  • In Dragon's Dogma, Once you defeated the dragon, Gran Soren is ruined and Duke Edmun is aged, he immediately accuses you of bargaining with the dragon (while he was the one who indeed took that option). Everyone in Gran Soren turns against you and tries to kill you on sight, resulting in a Persona Non Grata situation. But, who is to say you cannot repay their favour by killing every one of them?
  • One sidequest in Gothic II: Night of the Raven involves robbing brainwashed agents of God of Evil Beliar. At least one of them is in the area protected by guards and surrounded by Badass Bystanders who don't know of his crimes, thus attacking him or taking his possessions may have dire consequences. This may be a programmers' oversight, because the quest is given by local authorities (one of several). But since the game is a sandbox, there are several ways to deal with that.
  • Mass Effect 3 begins with Commander Shepard having been stripped of their military rank and Spectre status and placed under house arrest after saving the galaxy (again) in the previous game. Granted, this is justified as in the process of saving the galaxy they worked with a known terrorist organization and, depending on if you bought a certain DLC, blew up an entire Solar System, both of which are acts that would get anyone else a much worse punishment than what they got.
  • Red Dead Redemption has a rather major one. John Marston, forced to work for the government so three criminals can be brought to justice, not only gets rid of the criminals, but unintentionally helps end a Mexican Civil War, prevents various disasters, and helps many kind hearted folk in the community. His reward: the same government men come to his house and shoot him while he tries to help his family.
  • Space Quest VI: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier starts with Roger Wilco being court-martialed for saving StarCon from Pukoids in the previous game, on the grounds that Roger disobeyed orders and killed their golden boy Captain Quirk to do so. Roger is then forcibly demoted from Captain to Janitor Second Class, to the point of being stripped bare of his uniform. Roger gets no say whatsoever in the matter, let alone a lawyer.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert confronts Amanda and Cecilia in her hotel room to counter Cecilia's lies about him and win Amanda back. He's arrested because he had to break into the hotel room to do so.
  • In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Harvey manages to proves Yakkay's innocent early at the start of Case 3, but is immediately sent to prison for trying a case without his legal license.

  • In the superhero arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space, Kingman (Arthur as Superman Substitute) is arrested by Homeland Security for refusing to stop a suspect without knowing what they're charged with. Subverted in that he wants to use the trial to challenge the validity of the law, but the court is so embarrassed by the optics of putting the world's greatest hero on trial that they drop the case.
  • In an early episode of Everyday Heroes Mr. Mighty was ticketed for not carrying his registration while stopping a bank robbery. (It was his first day at his new job, and technically he hadn't started work yet.) Since it was a minor infraction, he simply had to do some community service work (which in turn led to another story arc).
  • Subverted in Hero Oh Hero. It's illegal to perform heroics without a license, but when Burk admits he hasn't got one (and doesn't care) to Logan (a properly licensed hero), the later agrees with the sentiment (albeit because of Honour Before Reason, compared to Burk's Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!).
  • In Ronin Galaxy, Leona fights off an assassin android, and is arrested after blacking out. It is believed that she initiated the fight with the android to sabotage another corporation.
  • Unsounded: Matty and Jivi go to turn in the Red Berry Boys and are promptly arrested, because a jail cell is honestly the safest place for them in the city at the moment and it allows Elka to question them more.

    Web Original 
  • At the end of Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, Agent Washington wiped out Project Freelancer, the Meta, and all the project's experimental AIs with one blow. However, in doing so he also erased any evidence the Oversight Subcommittee needed to properly put the Director of Project Freelancer behind bars (except for the Epsilon AI, which he handed to Caboose to take away before firing the EMP). As a result, Wash ends up behind bars for his vigilante actions.
  • At the end of RWBY Volume 7 Episode 1, Team RWBY, JNR, Qrow and Oscar are arrested for a number of infractions (piloting a stolen aircraft, abandoning said aircraft, vigilante actions and not being licensed Huntsmen and Huntresses) despite saving Pietro Polendina's pharmacy. Thankfully, they're cleared soon afterwards.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • This happens to Phase several times. In his first story, he fights a supervillain and ends up getting nearly arrested for vigilantism (he did destroy an entire street). He manages to convince the police that he never intended to fight the supervillain, he just wanted to save his sister, and the cops let him off with a warning that if he does it again without legal authorisation, he's screwed. In his sixth story, he fights a demon that takes down a team from the Mutant Commission Office, and they arrest him and interrogate him continually- despite the fact that he's in urgent need of medical attention- and he only gets out of it because of his family (although he had to physically stop the officers after they were brainwashed by the demon).
    • This plays a role in Charge's Back Story: on two occasions she saves lives, but the French MCO spin it that she was the one who endangered those individuals in the first place.

    Western Animation 
  • Both Avatar: The Last Airbender's Avatar Aang and Sequel Series The Legend of Korra's Avatar Korra find themselves in this predicament.
    • In Ba Sing Se, Aang and his crew fall afoul of Long Feng and his Dai Li, who conceal the hundred years' war from the city's residents.
    • In Republic City, Korra gets arrested for the massive public and private property damage she inflicts while beating some gangsters. Korra actually did bust up multiple shops and a lot of merchandise. Evading arrest and assaulting police officers probably didn't help.
    • Played much more seriously in "When Extremes Meet". Tarrlok responds to the anti-bending Well-Intentioned Extremist faction by cracking down on all non-benders, effectively proving the bad guys right. When Korra tells him to stop, siding with the non-benders, Tarrlok arrests Korra's friends Asami, daughter of an Equalist, and Mako and Bolin for defending Asami. Korra is about to attack Tarrlok when Mako tells him to stop as it wouldn't do anyone any good for her to be locked up as well.
  • This is combined with a Frame-Up in the Justice League episode "The Brave and the Bold" where The Flash is arrested after falling victim to Grodd's brainwashing device while chasing a car thief (Solovar, another Gorilla City resident, which had seriously gotten the hero's attention). Green Lantern bails him out, telling the police that they couldn't have held him with a pair of handcuffs if he was really guilty (which Flash then proves by taking them off by himself). Of course, Green Lantern is skeptical of his teammate's story himself, but that changes very quickly.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998)
    • In the episode "Town and Out," the girls and the Professor move home to "The Town of Citiesville", where the crime is far higher but life is also far more gritty and mundane...and thus, completely unprepared for three superpowered toddlers to show up fighting crime. While they don't quite get thrown in jail, the girls end up getting pulled in front of the Mayor who is angry at them for...destroying a bridge just to stop some jewel thieves...yeah, the Mayor was going REALLY easy on them.
    • In another, the girls are framed for crimes they didn't commit, and get thrown in jail until they piece the clues together, break out of prison and bring the real criminal to justice. The Mayor of Townsville thanks the girls for saving the day again, then laughs that they'll have to go to jail again anyway for the crime of breaking out of prison... then reveals he's not joking, since that is a real law.
    • Princess Morbucks threatens to throw the girls in jail when she has her dad buy the entire town and declares crime to be legal and warns them off trying to prevent any criminal activity. The girls respond by robbing her and forcing her to give the town back to the Mayor and make crime illegal again, or she'll never see her property again.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated:
    • The first episode opens with Scooby and the gang getting arrested right after solving a mystery. The police threaten to arrest them several times over the course of the series. This is because Crystal Cove enjoys having a bunch of Scooby Doo Hoaxes to attract tourists (mostly not caring about how the bad guys are usually doing this to steal something), and they don't appreciate a bunch of meddling kids spoiling the extra revenue.
    • Averted in the second season, when the new mayor often turns to Mystery Inc.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Cecil, Sideshow Bob's brother once had plans to blow up the Springfield Dam, steal the money he'd embezzled from the project and plant the blame all on Bob. After teaming up with Bart and foiling the plot, the police still arrest Bob along with his brother, because they simply can't believe that Bob was innocent this time.
    • In an earlier episode, Homer's mother became a hippie back in The '60s, and she and a bunch of friends went and destroyed the germs that Mr. Burns was trying to weaponize in a lab. In a subversion of this trope, although Mr. Burns wants her arrested for destroying his property, she was not arrested for this particular stunt. She was, however, forced to be constantly on the run from Mr. Burns and the police, so she became a Missing Mom.
  • X-Men: The Animated Series: Juggernaut robs a bank, but Colossus gets arrested instead.

    Real Life 
  • In a news story from the Eighties, one 7-Eleven clerk who got robbed, ran out into the parking lot to get the robbers' license plate number... and was fired. The company's rationale was that, since he technically left the store premises in order to essentially chase the guys who robbed him, he was displaying a blatant disregard for his own well-being and was therefore a liability.
  • Both law and corporate policy say that it's prohibited to sell alcohol to someone who is visibly drunk. When a man came in with bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and stumbling, the cashier would not sell alcohol to him. Apparently he had some sort of medical issue and the company fired her for discrimination against a customer.
  • There is a story floating around of an incident in Disney World where an employee in a Goofy costume saw a child drowning in a fountain. He went into the fountain, took off the head of his costume, and rescued the child. He was then fired for removing the head of his costume and thus breaking the illusion of the entire theme park.
  • A terrorist attack on a U.S. logistics convoy in Iraq left several soldiers killed or injured early in the fighting so a contractor truck driver picked up a rifle from an injured soldier and started fighting alongside the rest of the soldiers. The convoy commander even stated that the driver's actions played a substantial role in driving off the attack. Said contractor was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor and subsequently fired for violating the above-stated prohibition.
  • Three security members at a Wal-Mart confronted a shoplifter from trying to steal a laptop. When the man brandished a gun and tried to escape, they brought and kept him down. For their actions, Wal-Mart summarily fired them as it was company policy to let the man go if he was proven to be a threat. This is standard policy for most retail businesses for a very good reason: Thieves almost never pull out guns unless they're prepared to shoot somebody. It's better to let the shoplifter get away and give the cops whatever details you can afterwards than take a course of action that could get you - or a bystander - injured or killed.
  • Alyssa McKinney gave an asthma inhaler to her friend Breana Crites after she thought Crites was hit by a particularly bad asthma attack. note  The parents considered her a hero. The school, citing its Zero Tolerance policy which banned the sharing of prescription drugs, initially suspended both students for "passing drugs". McKinney was allowed back in school, probably due to her father's advocacy. Crites was expelled, a semester away from graduation. The girls no longer speak to each other as of 2012.
  • Although the facts of the case are complex, this trope was the editorial stance of some UK media outlets with regards to the case of Tony Martin, a British farmer who shot at two burglars on his property, killing one and wounding the other. Martin was arrested, tried for murder and attempted murder, and found guilty, although the murder conviction was reduced to one of manslaughter on appeal - the substance of the appeal was that Martin suffers from paranoid personality disorder, and the courts agreed, reducing his conviction on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Subverted in that he lay in wait for the burglars and continued to fire on them while they were fleeing and thus no longer posed a threat to his life or property, meaning it wasn't an act of heroism, but just cold-blooded murder. Despite this, the case was extremely divisive, and touched off a national debate about whether the law in Britain was rather too keen to arrest people for defending themselves or others. note 
  • A virtually identical case happened with a farmer named Shai Dromi in Israel (killed one burglar, wounded another, but unlike Martin he was acquitted of all charges other than possession of an illegal weapon). The public uproar led to a castle law being passed (i.e. allowing a person to use deadly force in defence of their home).
  • On August 3, 2017, a hacker who tried to slow down the spread of the WannaCry ransomware was arrested because U.S. officials thought he was trying to spread a different type of malware.
  • Good Samaritan Law exists to avert this, at least when helping someone who is injured, ill, or in peril. Though laws vary by country, and often by state or province as well, they typically prevent rescuers from being sued for wrongdoing for helping a victim in distress so long as said rescuer obtained consent to provide aid (and a rescuer has implied consent if the victim is unconscious or otherwise unable to respond). The idea is to discourage the Bystander Effect for fear of being sued, and prevent incidents like in The Incredibles where Mr. Incredible is sued for injuries he indirectly inflicted on a man he saved who had tried to commit suicide.


Video Example(s):


Arrested for saving a kid

Mira saves a kid from being killed by a truck. And then she gets arrested by Jou after telling the kids who she is.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArrestedForHeroism

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