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Fantastic Legal Weirdness

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In a world where Death Is Cheap and magic can alter reality, legal proceedings can be knocked for a loop.

A necromancer, instead of raising an army of undead, might find legitimate work as a consultant dealing with probate cases or solving murders. Maybe the Jedi Mind Trick or magical illusions can be used for Jury and Witness Tampering. Can The Nth Doctor be held liable for crimes committed by their previous incarnations? Does resurrection invalidate a conviction and death sentence, and do resurrectees have the right to reclaim property inherited or salvaged from them? And if your marriage is considered dissolved when you die, but you're brought back to life, are you still married to your spouse, or do you have to do the wedding and the paperwork all over again? How do age-of-consent laws(and other laws meant to protect minors) work if you're Really 700 Years Old? Are space colonies really colonies (and if so, do they belong to nations or to Earth in general?), or are they (or could they be) sovereign nations unto themselves?


Supertrope to:

Sister Trope to Fantastic Religious Weirdness, where religions and religious practices interact oddly with Speculative Fiction elements. See also Undead Tax Exemption, where such problems are handwaved away.



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    Anime And Manga 
  • Log Horizon: The Round Table Conference runs into this when they try to set up a legal code for the people now trapped in an RPG-Mechanics Verse. It's mentioned, for instance, that since Adventurers will respawn with no permanent harm done when killed, murdering an Adventurer is a far less serious crime, on about the same level as assault and battery. Theft of property and enslavement are considered the more serious crimes in comparison.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • The opening narration notes that governments have had a hard time reworking laws for the sudden appearance of Quirks, which now appear in 80% of all people. Superheroes seem to have originally been self-employed vigilantes who became legalized and regulated because of broad public support, but unregistered heroes are still illegal. It's illegal to use your Quirk to harm another, even in self defence, unless you have a hero license. This is presented both as both extremely restrictive (particularly when Izuku and his friends technically broke the law to capture Stain) but necessary to prevent chaos.
    • My Hero Academia: Vigilantes: It's mentioned that it's actually illegal to use a Quirk in public under any circumstances unless you have a Hero License. That being said, while in theory it's extremely restrictive, in practice it's only brought up in the worst cases. No one cares that Koichi uses his Quirk to slide around the ground all the time; one hard-line cop gives him a bit of a talking-to, but that's the worst of it. It's only when Quirks cause a disruption that the police get involved. Likewise, the pro heroes repeatedly let obvious cases of self-defense slide.
    • Vigilantes also has trouble with the "instant villains." They are ordinary people who took a drug that boosts their Quirks to unmanageable levels, often with some mind-affecting drugs mixed in to make them behave irrationally. Despite them going on rampages, there's not much the police can do to legally prosecute them, as the drug itself is technically not illegal. It gets worse when people start getting dosed without their knowledge or consent. The heroes have to treat them as both villains to be stopped and bystanders to be saved at the same time.
    • People with extreme Quirk mutations are treated as having a disability. Kirihito and Ikajiro, after being modified by Villain Factory, can't get normal jobs or indeed even fit in a normal building. They get welfare from the government, which their friends use to build a cafe big enough to handle people like them.
    • Some of the worst and most dangerous criminals in the world are kept permanently imprisoned because, with their Quirks, there is not actually a way to humanely execute them.
  • The whole concept of Wizard Barristers is lawyers who defend and prosecute magical criminals.
  • Durarara!!: Celty rides around on a jet-black motorcycle with no lights or plates, but she insists it's fine because he's actually a magic horse. In the second season, the cops decide that's not good enough and start chasing her down whenever she shows up. After arguing back and forth for a while, Celty points out that the law does have a specific exception written in for horses, so she doesn't need to have lights or plates. The cops counter that she still needs to obey the posted speed limit, which she doesn't.

    Comic Books 
  • In general, both Marvel Comics and DC Comics have it established that superheroes can testify in court without giving away their Secret Identities.
    • Over at Marvel the Civil War compared people having superpowers to people having firearms: registration and training was a must to prevent trouble (because of a penchant of mass destruction that followed), and so the Superhuman Registration Act came to pass.note  The situation became much more complicated when people in the government decided to use it as a reason to unleash the Day of the Jackboot upon innocent Americans. Its continuation was mostly fueled by a discussion whether applying the Pre Crime Arrest was unconstitutional or not (doubly so when the visions that led to said arrests were proven to be unreliable).
    • In the DCU any confessions given by suspects under the effects of Wonder Woman's lasso of truth are not admissible in court, unless the suspect themselves requests it, and even then the jury is meant not to treat any such statements as more inherently true than any other, though the public's perception and knowledge of the lasso tend to undermine this. Such statements are considered coerced.
  • Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk is a professional lawyer when not superheroing, and the Dan Slott and Charles Soule runs on her solo title, in particular, concentrated on weird legal issues such as somebody suing for compensation because they didn't like the results of their accidental Superhero Origin, or Doctor Doom's son claiming political asylum after a fight with his dad.
  • Astro City:
    • In one storyline, the lawyer defending a mobster who had murdered someone in front of dozens of witnesses used a "superhero defense", pointing out known cases of crimes actually committed the accused's evil twin from another dimension, supposedly dead people getting up and walking away none the worse for wear, etc. Between the sheer audacity of the argument and a mood of public guilt over the recent wrongful execution of the hero Silver Agent, it worked. The case also became a landmark in American legal praxis, and led to changes in how cases with metahuman involvement were handled. The lawyer, in his role as the narrator, states that there is no way that defense would fly in the comic's present.
    • A subsequent storyline looks at legal services in Shadow Hill, the city's supernatural district. Ghosts can be called up to settle their disputed wills; when a magician discovers their spells are contracts with higher powers, they can get a lawyer to figure out the terms; and vampires and other quasi-immortals can hire professional Renfields to help with their financial holdings, transferring the holdings to the Renfield when they die (or appear to), and the Renfield transferring the holdings back to them when they show up with a new identity.
  • In Watchmen's backstory, vigilantism was legalized at some point to make costumed heroes (none of whom had actual superpowers until Dr. Manhattan) legal crime-fighters. However, in The '70s a major police strike and nationwide protests led to the passage of the Keene Act, which repealed their legalization.
  • In Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book, the boys are put on trial by the Chronological Order. Their representative argues that their changes to the timeline were always supposed to happen and that stopping Bill and Ted's adventures would do more damage to the timeline.
  • In PS238, Tyler gets cloned, and his parents adopt the new "twin." Apparently, there's enough legal precedent for this sort of thing that "Toby" gets added to the system and enrolled in school without much hassle.

    Fan Works 
  • The War of the Masters:
    • In A Good Compromise, Jolin Tabris, a Trill lawyer, is fighting a probate case against a joined Trill whose previous host illegally bequeathed half his estate to his next host. Tyria Sark suggests the symbiont is trying to take the case constitutional, and Jolin says he might cite legal precedent to get the will thrown out, namely the case from the last time the same symbiont tried this stunt.
    • The prologue of Don't Say Goodbye, Farewell establishes in passing that you need either the subject's consent or a warrant to use telepathic examination in a criminal investigation: in this case, of an officer whose home planet recently defected from the Federation to the Klingon Empire. Commander Janice Qua refuses and demands an attorney.
    • Create Your Own Fate has a couple of Courtroom Episodes taking place in Bajoran courts. In the first case, the Bajoran justice system seems more willing than a real-life court to accept an Insanity Defense, probably because of the Occupation leaving a lot of Shellshocked Veterans behind: once a PTSD break is proven, Sheri Walford has her charges reduced from assault and battery and assault on a law enforcement officer, down to misdemeanor assault,note  and is sentenced to community service and mandatory psychiatric counseling. In the second case, Kanril Eleya has her telepathic examiner replace the original witness on the stand after the examination proves the witness was perjuring herself.
    • Myrmidons again references the rule about needing a warrant for telepathic examination: after a rape accusation between a Starfleet officer and a Moabite enlisted Marine, Kanril Eleya mentions that the victim's statement will probably be ruled inadmissible because of differences between Starfleet and Moabite military law (the Moabites obtained the statement by using a telepath and a Truth Serum on the victim without a warrant), but also notes that this just means they have to find other evidence. Sheri Walford sidesteps it by finding circumstantial evidence linking the defendant to a cold case, which Starfleet Security confirms. The defendant then pleads guilty to both crimes and is sentenced to a minimum ten years of psychiatric rehab.
  • In Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness, Aurors are saddled with a wonderfully verbose version of the British police caution in order to plug in the extra legal loopholes that being magical might present. Legal buffs might care to notice that in the Wizarding version, the right to remain silent (which is front and center in the Caution and Miranda) is the second-to-last thing mentioned. Also please note that unlike the caution, this one is to be recited upon arrest (or when the suspect wakes up from all the stunning spells), not interrogation. It reads as follows:
    It is my duty that you be made aware of your standing under the Provision of Magical Rights and Liberties. You have been apprehended by officers of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement while engaging in activities reasonably believed to be criminal in nature, and there is intent to hold you in violation of the law. Your wand has been confiscated and may not be returned to you unless you are exonerated of charges by the Wizengamot or equivalent legal due process. Officers of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement may use physical or magical force against you, including such as may cause permanent harm, injury, illness, incapacitation, or death if and only to the degree as is necessary to retain you in custody and to safeguard their own welfare as well as that of others. Any statement or incantation you may say or perform, including via non-verbal means may be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding. You are considered to be innocent until such time as guilt is reasonably proven, however your apprehension in situ is considered temporary grounds upon which you have waived your right to liberty at this time. You have the right to refuse to answer questions, however any false or misleading answers given will result in additional criminal charges. If you believe yourself to be operating under a curse, hex, jinx, or otherwise engaging in your current activities under magical coercion, you may indicate as such at any time. Additional rights and exclusions under wizarding law will be explained to you fully and completely as relevant. Do you understand these rights and exclusions?
  • Tantabus Mark II:
    • It's Luna's job (and she creates the Tantabus to help her) to patrol the dreams of all ponies to protect them from nightmares and encourage good dreams. While helping a cop, the Tantabus realizes there's very little stopping them from just finding criminals through their dreams and giving the information to the police. Luna decides very firmly that this is a breach of privacy and outside their jurisdiction. Criminals actually using dream magic to commit crimes are another story, but there are like five of those per year.
    • Pharynx asks if Luna and Moondog patrol changeling dreams. Luna points out that this would, at best, be the cause of a diplomatic incident and a patronizing breach of another nation's sovereign defense. It also turns out that Pharynx is officially Lord Protector of the Changelings, which means that Moondog is very hesitant about interacting with him because even teaching him dream magic has serious diplomatic implications. Luna promotes Moondog to Duchess of Dreams to make things a bit easier for everyone.
  • My Hero Playthrough has the Napier Doctrine, a UN resolution to allow member nations to pass laws allowing for trial in absentia, if the criminal's Quirk makes it dangerous to try them in person or remotely. It was named and created for this story's version of The Joker, whose Quirk caused anyone who saw his face or heard his voice to become a laughing, murderous criminal for thirteen hours, even if they saw or heard a recording. The Doctrine does specify that such trials must still be fair, for example Japan's law under the doctrine says that the trial must be approved by the country's Supreme Court and states that if it is defended by a Public Defender, there must be at least two of them, one of senior rank, and they are offered bonuses for winning. This is used to try Overhaul, since removing him from his extradimensional cell would be too dangerous.


    Film — Live-Action 
  • The main thrust of Jupiter Ascending is that the main character is an exact genetic duplicate of a deceased Human Alien. As such, she is considered her "genetic reincarnation" and inherits all of her property...which includes the planet Earth.
  • The basis of the film Minority Report (and the Philip K. Dick Short Story it was based on, the Trope Namer of Pre Crime Arrest) is a system that alerts homicide cops to murders before they happen, letting them charge and convict the suspect of first-degree murder before the crime actually takes place. Precrime procedures include having two judges monitoring the investigation by video conference. The legal ramifications are discussed early on: it's noted that the American Civil Liberties Union considers the system unconstitutional, though protagonist John Anderton insists that just because you stopped the murder from happening doesn't change that it would've happened.note  Under current law, all you could actually charge somebody with in such an instance would be attempted murder or possibly conspiracy to commit. Not only that, but the precogs are more or less slaves, and the mass scans would also be quite illegal in our time (which is why early on it is mentioned that Precrime is still on an experimental phase and thus all the scrutiny before it is passed to cover a larger area than D.C).
  • In Rashomon, one of the witnesses at a murder trial is a medium speaking on behalf of the victim. It doesn't actually help much; in this case, there was never any question about who killed him and the hearing is more about why and whether there were mitigating circumstances, on which points the victim is just as self-centered and unreliable as all the other witnesses.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: The people who were "Blipped" (when Thanos killed half the universe in Avengers: Infinity War and Hulk resurrected them in Avengers: Endgame) lost five years, but are still legally treated as the ages they were before. Students even had to retake the school year, to their annoyance since they had already finished midterms. The problem is that the paperwork hasn't quite caught up; on the airplane, Flash is able to get a hold of alcohol because his ID says he was born twenty-one years ago. When MJ tells a stewardess that he was Blipped, she immediately confiscates his drink.

  • This is Older Than Radio. In The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine briefly wonders about the risen saints mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew: did they try to reclaim their property and spouses, or just go back into their graves after walking around Jerusalem? The Gospel doesn't say.
  • The first section of Stranger in a Strange Land is about how the main character, being the first human ever born on Mars, is theoretically its owner. That gets resolved fairly quickly, after which the plot is about him learning about life on Earth and starting a sex cult.
  • In Harry Potter, the Ministry of Magic has laws about Dark curses, ownership of magical animals, the rights to carry a wand, etc. Two of the main laws in the story are that a.) underage wizards cannot do magic outside of school (generally waived if it's an accident), and b.) wizards cannot break the Statute of Secrecy. Harry himself was once charged for breaking these, but acquitted on the grounds of self-defense (against dementors).
  • In the Dante Valentine novels, Psions (the official name for magic-users in the books' Science Fantasy world) are often legally accredited professionals whose abilities are admissible in court. Necromances like Danny (able to channel spirits and raise the recently dead) are often hired to settle probate matters by asking the deceased what they want done with their estate. She also mentions she charges extra for criminal cases, and gets very cross with the attorney when hired for a probate only to discover that the decedent was murdered by one of the heirs.
  • In the Anita Blake series, Anita's day job as an animator often involves raising the dead to settle estate matters. Zombies can be raised to settle things like disputes over which version of a will is accurate or not, but they make terrible witnesses in court cases, since they can really only respond to the animator who raised them, and the animator has to ask very specific questions, thus opening them to objections for leading the witness. Zombies are also useless when they've been murdered, as a murdered zombie will, no matter how powerful the animator who raised them is, beeline straight for their murderer and attempt to kill them. It might be useful for the police to track down the killer, but not exactly admissible evidence in a court of law (to say nothing of potential countersuits for siccing a mad zombie on someone without due process).
  • A short story in the anthology Blood Lite III: Aftertaste takes place post-Zombie Apocalypse. The zombies targeted lawyers and politicians first, and got all the laws changed to grant themselves rights. The protagonist is a ghost who uses this precedent to assert possession rights on his former home and evict the current tenants, and uses that precedent to then possess his zombie lawyer and regain a body—zombies are easier to possess than living humans.
  • Two of Robert J. Sawyer's books feature this.
    • In Mind Scan, there's a trial over whether or not a character who just uploaded her consciousness into an android body can still be considered the same person, or legally dead, with her property going to her son.
    • Illegal Alien involves a milder example, with an alien charged in the murder of a human.
  • Jill Kismet has werewolf and hunter units working as credentialed FBI Agents (as well as independently a la the title character) and mentions a few times that FEMA funds can be used for major supernatural incidents.
  • Given its universe is largely dominated by a Society of Immortal Transhumanist Space Elves who consider oaths and contracts to be the cornerstone of civilization, the Eldraeverse frequently examines how various matters of law might work out in a society where death as we know it is more of an inconvenience.
  • Through Violet Eyes by Stephen Woodworth revolves around "Violets" (named for their eye color), essentially mediums who can channel the spirits of the dead. The results are admissible in court, though it requires being hooked up to EKG and brainwave readers to prove they're really doing it.
  • The Last Enemy by H. Beam Piper gives us a society in which reincarnation has now been proven, so their view of death is far more relaxed. Assassination is a legal profession because of this (though there are certain rules, such as no nukes). Near the end of the story, lawsuits start to be launched by people trying to recover property they had in their past lives, though we don't see whether any succeed.
  • Isaac Asimov's 1957 short story "A Loint of Paw" deals directly with this. A con man named Stein defrauds someone of over $100,000, then gets into a Time Machine and travels to the day after the Statute of Limitations expires for his crime. The prosecutor and Stein's defense attorney argue about whether the statute of limitations should follow time as experienced by the prosecution/police or as experienced by Stein. In the end, the judge rules for the defendant, because the whole story has just been an elaborate set-up for the judge to say "A niche in time saves Stein."
  • In the Verse of Garrett, P.I., there are laws on the books which safeguard the status of the ruling royal and noble families against magical tampering. Most notably, making animated simulacra of people is highly illegal because of the risk of imposture, and even Karenta's king is subject to mandatory testing to prove he's not undead if his chief officials collectively demand he do so.
  • Domina: The city was originally populated by criminals and abandoned by the mainland soon after. Therefore, the local laws are very loose and structured mostly around swift, harsh punishment. There are no prisons to speak of, and the primary punishment is "retribution;" if a crime is committed, a neutral judge assigns a penalty that the victim can inflict on the perpetrator. These punishments can be fines, but for more serious crimes summary execution is granted. Furthermore, if no one calls for retribution, no one will bother trying to interfere, and the two parties are pretty much allowed to just kill each other with impunity. The government only gets involved if the conflict starts to spill over to bystanders.
  • Subverted in the Discworld novel Snuff. Commander Vimes investigates the gruesome murder of a female goblin, but as goblins are incorrectly not considered sapient, the killer can't be charged with murder. Lady Vimes successfully lobbies the rulers of the Disc to have the laws changed, but the killer still can't be charged because it wasn't illegal when the crime was committed (a very real legal principle called ex post facto). A Vigilante Execution by Commander Vimes' retainer solves that problem.
  • In The Ghatti's Tale, courts in Canderis have an extra party: specially-trained humans and their sapient feline Bond Creatures, who serve as a Living Lie Detector (the ghatti) and an interpreter for the Living Lie Detector (the human, as even overgrown alien cats can't talk the way humans do).
  • The Jenkinsverse:
    • Humans were considered non-sentient indigenous fauna by the Dominion before the Kevin Jenkins incident. Furthermore, the Dominion's bureaucracy considered it impossible for sentient life to evolve on a Deathworld like Earth, thus even individual abductees couldn't be considered sentient. However, one Xiú Chang got around this rule because she was adopted by the Gaoian clan of Females, and thus legally a Gaoian. After the incident on the Outlook to Forever station got enough public attention, the "no deathworld sentients" rule was scrapped and the requirements for sentience were lowered from having invented Faster-Than-Light Travel to calculus, giving humans the same legal rights and protections everyone else enjoyed.
    • A Corti swore on a printout of the universal physical constants in court because non-deathworlder aliens are all atheists. Also a case of Hollywood Law for the sake of Rule of Funny, as Cimbrean is a British colony and since 1695 you're allowed to affirm that you're telling the truth instead of swearing by God (and it's not like swearing that has kept everyone from perjury anyway).
  • Hayven Celestia: On Planetary Acquisitions' Generation Ships resources are scarce enough that crew are normally euthanized and recycled at the age of sixty, and most crimes are punished by pushing back the perp's "retirement date". So in effect everything carries a death sentence, the difference is how long it's held off.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space stories often consider the impact of far future science on societies and their laws. For instance, on the future overcrowded Earth pick-pocketing is no longer illegal, teleport booths have made alibis useless in determining innocence, and before synthetic organs were developed easy organ transfers caused the population to vote the death penalty (which allowed the condemned's organs to be harvested) for increasingly trivial crimes - one story features a man condemned to death for traffic violations. The Earth government also actively suppresses new inventions that they feel society can't cope with.
  • Aeon 14: AIs govern themselves by intellectocracy and have their own separate court system to deal with AIs that commit crimes, which is said to be harsher than the legal system for organics in the then-current Sol Space Federation. We get a glimpse of it early in Airthan Ascendancy when Carmen, an AI and officer in the Intrepid Space Force, is prosecuted for dereliction of duty.spoiler  The AIs accept mitigating factorsnote  and sentence her to a "Limitation"—new code forbidding her from ever being a ship's AI again—and a requirement for her core to be installed in a human for the next ten years.
  • Stardoc: Beyond Varallan. Jorenian marriages, called "Choosing", are for life. After Cherijo is Chosen impulsively by her dead husband's drugged-into-a-hyperaggressive-state brother Xonea, she eventually gets out from under it by having another physician administer a lethal dose of drugs to herself so she can be declared clinically dead, and waiting for her Healing Factor to revive her. She then quickly gets engaged to her Second Love Duncan to keep the still-drugged Xonea from just Choosing her all over again.
  • Distress by Greg Egan: Police in the futuristic setting can use powerful drugs to revive murder victims for a few minutes in hopes that they'll testify. It's terribly painful for the victims and is ambiguous whether it brings them Back from the Dead or merely animates their corpses, so the practice is being challenged on ethical grounds in-universe.
  • Wearing the Cape: Common, due to the way the 'verse acts as a Reconstruction for most superhero tropes.
    • People with powers need to be certified in order to use them to fight crime. Period. Anything else is vigilantism, and is not tolerated.
    • However, the primary purpose of certified super teams is actually disaster relief. A good amount of space is spent describing the legal processes which allow heroes to cross state borders (and even national borders in the really big emergencies) to get to disaster zones as fast as possible and hold things together until the slower but more numerous mundane crisis aid arrives. Because of this, superheroes have military ranks (albeit as civilian militia) to help smooth out some of the problems that would otherwise arise.
    • One oft-repeated piece of advice is that superheroes are not police. They are civilian contractors who aid the police when they can; whenever they take down a supervillain, it's a citizen's arrest.
    • While secret identities are rare due to the reality of living in a world with the internet, supers who do have secret identities are required to disclose them to the government. Otherwise, they can't get certified, they can't testify in court, and overall they're treated the same as any other random weirdo who shows up with a mask and refuses to explain who they are. On the other hand, deliberately outing a super is a huge breach of privacy, and the person doing it will be sued into oblivion.
    • While supers under the age of eighteen can be certified and work on hero teams, they cannot be knowingly sent into a situation where they are expected to see combat.
    • The early books focus on a few laws and potential laws on superhuman abilities. While the biggest one (creating a public database of all superhumans and their residences) doesn't go through, it seems as though anyone with a dangerous power—even basic Super Strength—is legally considered armed at all times. A super construction worker gets drunk and rowdy in the first book, and it's mentioned that he can be charged with using a deadly weapon while intoxicated.
  • The last Animorphs book briefly features Visser Three, the Puppeteer Parasite Big Bad, being put on trial by the victorious humans. At first they're stumped about how to do this—he can't interact with the courtroom without a host, but one of the court's arguments is that taking one is a war crime. The Andalites wind up making a machine to help this problem. It's also mentioned that the visser's former host, Alloran, is not being called as a witness, as this was deemed too close to having him testify against himself.
  • In Artemis Fowl, fairies Must Be Invited into a human residence, the exact details of which are apparently decided by a committee. (It's still a supernatural process, however—fairies who accidentally break the rules become ill, and repeat offenders lose their magic.) Aside from relying on Exact Words, the first book mentions that fairy cops can consider a call for help to be an invitation.
  • In Brightly Burning, a teenager's Traumatic Superpower Awakening (which killed several bullies torturing him at the time) throws the royal court into chaos for this reason. Eventually legal authorities conclude that he's not guilty, based on the principles that a) you can't expect someone who doesn't even know they have magic to control it, b) the boy was restrained and had no means of escape, and c) the surviving bullies have testified under Truth Spell that they intended to hurt him. It's earlier noted that because Valdemar was built around the (entirely true) premise that Heralds have Incorruptible Pure Pureness, its current legal system can't undermine that premise even if given reason to.
  • The Reluctant King: In "The Unbeheaded King" there's a brief discussion by ghost Baron Lorc who had been a magistrate while alive if he's still got authority to perform a divorce. Since there's no law saying a ghost can't be a magistrate so far as he knows, Lorc concludes his office is still in effect and grants the divorce.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Played with in "A Man Alone". A black marketeer clones himself and kills the clone to frame Odo for killing him. While arresting him, Odo comments, "Killing your own clone is still murder."
    • "Dax" has the Klaestrons try to extradite Jadzia Dax to try her for a murder allegedly committed by the Dax symbiont's previous host Curzon. Ben Sisko argues extensively that Jadzia and Curzon are not the same personnote  and therefore Jadzia can't be tried in place of Curzon, though the entire proceeding is rendered moot by Odo proving Curzon had an alibi.
    • Sisko's plot in "The Storyteller" has him mediating a border dispute between two Bajoran tribes. An ancient treaty had set a river as their border, but then during the recently ended Occupation the Cardassians diverted the river twenty kilometers to the west. One tribe wants to use the river's old location as the border, the other wants to use the new one. Sisko sides in favor of the old border, but with the stipulation that the losing tribe must still have free access to the river for trade.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there was once a hearing to determine whether or not Data, an almost-unique sapient android, was Starfleet property or a legal person. The Betazoid empaths also can be used to tell whether witnesses are lying or not, although this does result in false positives at times if the witness is holding back about something that isn't related to the matter they're being questioned on.
  • On Star Trek: Voyager, the Doctor, a sapient hologram, sent in a holo-novel he wrote for publication; however, the publisher then decided to publish an early draft without his permission, on the grounds that he had no legal rights to stop it. A trial ensued, and the Doctor won the legal definition of "author," though the judge stopped short of giving him full legal personhood. Interestingly, Captain Janeway's testimony of the Doctor having disobeyed orders in the past was used as evidence that he did, in fact, have free will.
  • In Jessica Jones (2015), one of Jessica's major hurdles is that it's nigh-impossible to force a psychopath with a Compelling Voice like Kilgrave to stand trial, especially when most people don't believe that his powers are real.
  • Given that Grimm combines a fantasy show with a police procedural, this happens every once in a while. For example, one episode has a trio of supernatural creatures (or "Wesen" as the show calls them) rob a series of banks while in Game Face. It's implied that they can't be indicted since it can't be proven it was them and their "masks" can't be found. A Vigilante Execution renders those issues moot.
  • The series Century City was completely structured around the legal struggles of various people 20 Minutes into the Future, anything from the legality of cloning a child (the original was long dead, and it was well-accepted that it would only biologically be the same) to a baseball pitcher that got a cybernetic eye to replace one lost in an accident being kicked out of his team (because of the belief that the eye was an unfair advantage) and in an unproduced episode a scientist taking Cure Your Gays to the most literal extreme (having created a procedure that could be applied to unborn children that would reduce the possibilities of them becoming gay when they aged, and essentially dooming all minority sexualities to extinction if it became widespread).
  • Babylon 5:
    • One of the established rules of Earth Alliance law is that evidence obtained via telepathy is not admissible in legal proceedings. On the other hand, people conducting business or diplomatic negotiations routinely retain low-level telepaths (such as supporting cast member Talia Winters) to mediate the talks and ensure both parties are being honest.
    • One of the show's funny moments is a glimpse of the station's courtroom that is completely unrelated to the episode's plot, where a human is suing a Vree (one of the show's alien species, which visually resemble The Greys and In-Universe are the reason this Ufology belief exists) for reparations because the Vree's ancestor abducted his ancestor (the Vree's defense essentially is that all Vree look alike, while the man boasts of having apparently bullet-proof evidence that identifies said Vree's ancestor as the one who did the abduction). The judge rolls his eyes and asks for an interpreter for the Vree (who responded to the charge by drawing a symbol); we never hear how the case ends.
    • In "The Geometry of Shadows", the Drazi select a new government every five years by drawing scarves colored green and purple from a barrel, then dividing themselves up by color and beating the crap out of each other. After the Green Drazi on the station start killing Purple Drazi, Ivanova grabs the Green Leader's scarf while arguing with him, and is informed that she is now the Green Leader.
      Ivanova: Wait a minute. You're saying just because I'm holding this right now, I'm Green Leader? But I'm human.
      Former Green Leader: (rather sheepishly) Rules of combat older than contact with other races. Did not mention aliens. Rules change... caught up in committee. Not come through yet.
      Ivanova: Yeah, bureaucracy, tell me about it. Well, what do you know? All right. (puts on the scarf) Greens follow Green Leader? Green Leader says: you're all coming with us down to the Quartermaster's office. I'm sure there'll be some dye hanging around. Those of you not in the brig for assaulting an Earth Alliance officer are gonna look absolutely gorgeous in purple.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Nora is from a decade or so in the future, so when she tries to join the Time Bureau, the automated system keeps denying her because current records say she's fifteen years old and in a mental institution.
  • Played straight or inverted in Black Mirror depending on the episode. The plot of "White Christmas" revolves around a tricking a confession out of a digital mind upload of a man in interrogation. The legal ramifications of that are... shaky, at best. "White Bear" asks the viewers to determine what is or is not Mind Rape via repeated torture and induced amnesia. Almost every episode has some facet of near future life which would make legal matters incredibly difficult.
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Pretense", human Skaara, host to the Goa'uld Klorel, crash-lands on Tollana. Skaara asks for the Tollans to remove Klorel, Klorel demands to keep possession of Skaara's body, so the Tollans take the matter to "triad" and subpoena SG-1 to act as "archons", a combination of lawyer and jury.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier:
    • The banks, overwhelmed by the sudden flush of loan applications, have been using the Blip as an excuse not to approve loans. These people were missing with no income for five years; on paper, that is extremely suspicious. Of course, it is public knowledge that these people were dead for those five years, and it happened to a randomly distributed half of the entire universe, so this is a problem billions of people have just on Earth. This is a clear case of discrimination, but the Blipped are not a legally protected class (though it's implied with Sam Wilson and his sister that a more old-fashioned kind of discrimination is also at work).
    • Elsewhere in the world, Blipped people are being prioritized by the Global Repatriation Commission (the international body set up to handle the crises caused by half the world's population coming back to life at once) at the expense of the un-Blipped: among other things, the Blipped getting their prior property, jobs, and finances returned to them by the GRC has led to displaced un-Blipped people ending up in refugee camps. This has motivated Western Terrorists such as the Flag Smashers to raid banks and warehouses to get resources to the refugees—as well as using car bombs against the GRC itself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Eberron sourcebook Sharn: City of Towers has a Law and Order chapter which specifies among other things that the use of various forms of mind control magic is considered a form of fraud, witness stands are commonly placed upon diases enchanted to make it harder for a witness to knowingly lie (and witnesses are required to relieve themselves of any items that may help them resist such magic before taking the stand), and Bestow Curse is among the range of punishments in use against repeat offenders.
  • GURPS:
    • In GURPS Technomancer, US courts have been dealing with the existence of magic for fifty years.
      • The Compel Truth spell is the big example of this trope: it's constitutionalnote , every witness who takes the stand has to take it, and it's a big help in getting the innocent exonerated. Resisting it is treated as contempt of court, and the court-approved wizard or bailiff casting it will instantly notice if you resisted.
      • A Longer-Than-Life Sentence is possible in Louisiana, where people can be sentenced to death and zombie labor.
      • Being under Mind Manipulation is obviously an absolute defense in a criminal trial.
      • Youth elixir is new enough that the courts are currently fighting over its implications; among other things, they haven't worked out whether a chronological and mental adult in a thirteen-year-old body can legally act in a pornographic film.
    • One article in Pyramid, "Above the Law," focuses on superhumans and the law, and explains how a Super Registration Act might work if powers were treated like tools or weapons. Transmutating matter can wreck economies, ESP of any sort is a nightmare for privacy laws, and there's a dilemma on whether it's moral to confine someone just for existing if they have Person of Mass Destruction powers (each campaign world will have its own answer to that).
  • In one episode of their podcast, the creators of Sentinels of the Multiverse go into the legal questions that arise from a universe full of superheroes, including whether they can be sued without knowing their secret identities, whether property damage by the superhero Ra counts as an "Act of God," and whether destroying alchemically created "Fleshchildren" counts as murder or property damage.
    • In-universe there was a comic issue where Baron Blade was tried for his crimes with the Freedom Five's lawyer as the prosecution. Predictably, he got off scot-free because, you know, he's in charge of his own country but not before some legal weirdness happens.

    Video Games 
  • A Courtroom Episode in Knights of the Old Republic has the Player Character acting as attorney to a man accused of murder. One option is to use the Force Persuade power to force witnesses to commit perjury for you, which is considered a Dark Side action.
  • A defense option in your murder trial in Neverwinter Nights 2 is to use a boy with True Sight to cast doubt on eyewitness testimony that you led the massacre of a village (it was really Luskan soldiers under a magical illusion, which he saw through). Your opponent, Luskan ambassador Torio Claven, tries to counter by disputing the boy's ability, but he proves it by telling her about the medallion she has in her pocket.
  • Mass Effect: There's a lot of weird laws, mostly as background details, but the three that are immediately relevant to the story are genetics, Prothean artifacts, and AI research.
    • Transhumanism exists, but the law prevents adding any new abilities to a species. So increased muscle and bone density are fine (and standard for soldiers), but giving a human the ability to photosynthesize is illegal. This also prevents genetically engineering new creatures and the like. It's mentioned that because of this, the human-made medi-gel is technically illegal, but it's just so useful that it's given a pass.
    • Prothean artifacts are Lost Technology that form the backbone of the galaxy. The Mass Relays, in particular, are what make interstellar travel possible at all. Therefore, messing with them in any capacity is illegal unless you have specific and explicit permission from very high-ranking people. In the first game, a scientist can't even perform non-destructive scans on the Keepers who maintain the Citadel because everyone is just that scared of causing some sort of problem.
    • Every Artificial Intelligence ever recorded has immediately Turned Against Their Masters. Because of this, AI is illegal, researching AI is illegal, and altogether getting anywhere near the concept of AI is illegal. Non-sapient "Virtual Intelligences" are common, but they're basically just well-developed user interfaces and immediately show problems if you try to use them for something outside what they were designed for. In the backstory, the quarians loopholed around the ban by creating a race of VIs with networking abilities so that they could share information. It didn't take long for the geth as a whole to cross the sapience threshold and rebelnote , even if individually they remained but fancy calculators.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the ending of Zero Time Dilemma, one of the reasons the Big Bad gets away with everything is that he didn't do anything very bad in the current timeline, although his plan centered around torturing espers in other timelines and gathering the related data for use in that one. The protagonists can't prove anything unless they're willing to break The Masquerade, and that would cause a whole new legal fallout.


  • Grrl Power:
    • A key part of the comic is the question of how superheroes would realistically be handled, especially legally. Powers are considered a Second Amendment right and do not require registration, but they do not grant a license to act as a vigilante; people who want to play superhero either sign up with the government or are arrested. An entirely new police/military hybrid organization is created to deal with "atypical threats" and employs the bulk of the government's supers, because most existing organizations don't have the proper mandate to deal with that sort of thing. It's also mentioned offhand that flying supers don't technically have to file a flight plan (the law was written with an exception for human-sized flying objects, intended for kites and drones), but it's considered polite to do so.
    • Sydney is thrown two months into the future. When she comes back, it's only been two days for her, and she asks how her pay will work. At Maxima's insistence, Ariana agrees to split the difference and pay her for a month—but only this time, since it was a relatively small jump.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Doctor Bunnigus wonders if a group of immortals that murdered someone should be brought to justice. Petey points out that it happened eleven million years ago. Yes, all the murderers are still alive, but the axe has been buried, the hole subducted, and half the continent became magma.
      Bunni: This immortality thing is going to get weird.
    • Later, another group of immortals are temporarily killed. They can be easily resurrected, but legally as corpses they have no rights until they are resurrected. Local scavengers fight the people trying to resurrect them so that they can steal their stuff.
    • AI rights are a legal quagmire. On the one hand, full AIs are considered on par with organic sapience, but most of them are still hardwired to obey certain precepts, like the captain of a ship or the admiral of a fleet. Emancipated AIs exist, but are rare. Furthermore, synthetic intelligences (SI) are just as sapient as AIs, just less intelligent, but are treated as mindless automatons that can be sacrificed at a moment's notice. If they become intelligent enough they can cross the "sapience threshold" and gain full rights, but that requires extensive outside hacking.
    • Clones, especially gate-clones, cause many legal problems as well. Perfect clones such as gate-clones are legally considered to be the same person as the original up until the moment of their cloning—so if the original committed a crime and was then cloned, the clone is still responsible for it. In the one case shown, a gate clone is tried and sentenced for the original person killing someone while they were manually driving -which in-story means disabling the permanent SI autopilot and (usually) having to install a system to be able to drive manually, all of which can only be done when cold sober. The guy didn't make his case any better by sassing the judge.
    • Kathryn jokes that grunts don't quit until they "finally find the time to die." Jengisha points out that with their new super-advanced immortality and resurrection technology, that might not be a valid reason to quit any more.
    • There's also all kinds of trouble early in the comic when the mercs win a lawsuit against a company of cloned attorneys, and are permitted to collect their settlement by killing the clones and turning them in for a bounty. It's pointed out in the notes with the early strips that the clones are organic robots connected to the Collective, each with only a tiny fragment of individuality, and therefore don't "count" as individual sapients. The whole topic is Put on a Bus eventually, rather than discussed.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Earth-born Uryuoms, despite being members of an extraterrestrial species are legally citizens of the country on Earth they were born in (at least for those born in a country with birthright citizenship) and thus not legally "aliens". In fact, as noted by William, American-born Uryuoms could technically legally run for President. However, given that the Masquerade is still somewhat in effect (at least in the main universe), in practice, Uryuoms have no legal standing whatsoever because their very existence is kept secret from the public.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
    • The police handle McNinja's less-than-legal vigilantism by instantly pardoning him if he returns to his office and calls "Base!"
    • For some reason, there is a law on the books that anyone becomes a duke if Ben Franklin tells them to go fuck themselves. This was nothing but a silly historical footnote for centuries, until Franklin was resurrected through cloning. Between McNinja's wild adventures and Ben's annoyance at said adventures, they leave a lot of dead dukes in their wake.
  • In the world of Girl Genius, there are a wide variety of ways to bring someone Back from the Dead to varying degrees. Unsurprisingly, this does not mesh well with a social structure based on inheritance, so the Fifty Families have an ironclad rule that once you're dead, your titles and lands pass to your heirs even if you later get brought back.

    Web Original 
  • This is basically the concept of the blog Law and the Multiverse, which is written by a professional lawyer who speculates on how would the plots of superhero comic books work within the framework of American law.
  • The Superhero Law blog deals with this as well.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Krillin tries to scam his insurance company by collecting a life insurance policy after he died and was wished back to life with the Dragonballs. It doesn't end well.
    • Later Goku says in reference to a lifetime supply of Hetap: "You know, they say 'lifetime', but they never consider the Dragon Balls..."
  • This Quora answer (by a practicing attorney) argues that in Captain America: Civil War, if Bucky "Winter Soldier" Barnes was ever brought to trial, he would have a legitimate case for an Insanity Defense because the Brainwashing he was put through by the Soviets overrides any semblance of his normal judgement about his actions.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang is put on trial for a murder supposedly committed by Kyoshi, one of his past lives. Unable to come up with another defense, he and his friend resort to trying to summon Kyoshi's spirit to defend herself. It works...except that she confesses to killing the guy. (Evidently he was a warlord trying to conquer her village.)
  • Steven Universe:
  • Transformers Animated: Sari Sumdac quickly loses any say in how her father's company is run because there's no proof she legally exists. Since she was born from a Cybertronian protoform and Issac's DNA, he had no way to claim her as his actual daughter, instead just raising her himself.

    Real Life 
  • As noted by Forbes here, the emergence of practical self-driving cars poses some interesting legal conundrums, such as who would be liable for damages if the driverless vehicle was judged to be at-fault in a wreck. Should it be a rider in the vehicle? The owner? The car manufacturer? So far, though, road tests of driverless cars showed them obeying traffic laws to the letter and only getting into accidents because a human driver screwed up. We say "to the letter" for a reason: in one case where a driverless car actually was pulled over (for driving too slowly and holding up traffic), Google was held responsible, as it was one of theirs out on a test run.
  • World legal systems have been struggling to catch up with the rapid cultural evolution of the Information Age for a while.
    • The Internet created (and to a large extent, still does) all sorts of legal weirdness in the 90s and 2000s. The first claimed "internet crime" was actually committed on the ARPANET in 1973, when an American forgot his razor in England and sent an email requesting it be sent back to him. Using the ARPANET for personal use was not allowed. Now, most legal weirdness tends to surround privacy.
    • A 2017 US case, Davison v. Loudon County Board of Supervisors, centered on whether a government official could block people on social media for their views. A federal court in Virginia ruled this to violate the First Amendment right to freedom of expression (it most closely corresponds to the right to petition for redress of grievances), especially since most platforms allow users to "mute" someone they don't want to hear (meaning that person can still post/reply/whatever, but the official won't see the posts). A similar ruling came in 2018 in a parallel case involving President Donald Trump's habitual use of Twitter (he almost exclusively used his personal Twitter account to make public statements rather than the White House's official @POTUS account); another involved Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Both cases deemed that, as they were using the Twitter accounts in an official capacity, they could not block users from their posted content as it impedes their ability to hear about it.
  • There are lots of border disputes that can involve rivers that have changed course and the like, islands claimed by multiple nations, pieces of countries within in other countries within other countries (see Pakistan and India for example) but one especially odd example is Bir Tawil, a piece of land that ends up claimed by no one.note  See also the trope Regional Redecoration.
  • The effects of climate change threaten to lead to entirely new legal issues, whose resolution is still in discussion. The concept of "climate refugees"—people forced to leave their homelands due to environmental conditions—is one such new issue. Also the cases of small sovereign island nations like the Kingdom of Tonga, which is literally being swallowed by the Pacific as ocean levels rise.


Video Example(s):


"Greens follow Green Leader"

The Drazi decide on a new government every few years with the custom of drawing green and purple scarves from a barrel and then brawling between greens and purples. In the midst of trying to convince the Green Leader to call it off, Ivanova grabs his scarf from him, and is informed that SHE is now the Green Leader. The former Green Leader sheepishly explains, "Rules of combat older than contact with other races. Did not mention aliens. Rules change... caught up in committee. Not come through yet."

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / FantasticLegalWeirdness

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Main / FantasticLegalWeirdness