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"Nobody ever came out and said, 'Please pass a law so I can be forced to stop doing something I shouldn't be doing,' no, it's always 'Please pass a law to force them to stop doing something that I don't like.'"
Mannie Garcia, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

The detectives or officers investigating a case find a suspect not actually guilty of anything, but still doing something that squicks them or brings out personal moral indignation. At times, this is done to show the depths of the characters and their flaws, as in an ensemble cast, you might even have people who don't see what the big deal is at best and defending the behavior at worst.

Frequently though, it's simply an obvious case of Writer on Board, and the viewers are expected or implored to feel just as outraged and somehow make the activity illegal by writing to their members of Congress or something similar.

Naturally, this happens most often with some sort of sexual encounter which is vital to a case.

See also And That's Terrible and Is Nothing Sacred? In sports, this is the sadistic version of Loophole Abuse. If a law is passed to deal with the situation, it's likely an Obvious Rule Patch. Conversely, if a law specifically allows people to do immoral things, that's Legalized Evil.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The phrase is occasionally used in Judge Dredd stories, almost always with a Judge around to respond, "There is." In at least one instance there really was no law to fit the crime, when an old man tried to bury his recently deceased wife in an open plot in a graveyard after he couldn't pay for it. While Grave Robbing was illegal, nobody had tried to do the opposite before. Instead, Dredd charged him with trespassing.
  • Judo Girl and Judo Boy once followed an Earth-bound meteor only to meet up with their archenemy Captain Steel at the crash site. Captain Steel was furious, because this was perhaps the only time they'd shown up to stop him from doing something not against the law. He was going to take the meteor, yes, but it's hardly stealing if it doesn't belong to anyone in the first place!
  • In the early '90s Justice Society miniseries, Black Canary wisecracks while fighting some thugs that "Handguns are just too easy to get these days! There oughta be a law!" This annoyed a letter-writer who took it as social commentary, but it was meant as a knowing wink at the existence of gun-control laws in later decades.
  • Used in Libram X — Jen was rather bewildered by the Mazeworks:
    Jen: But what are these monsters? What is this... mazeworld? Isn't there some type of law against these monsters?
    Ace: [...] and as for the law around here... I'm afraid "those monsters" are it.
  • An early Marvel parody comic satirizing The Comics Code had a group of villains complaining about the clause that enforced The Good Guys Always Win:
    "Knowing us baddies always gotta lose!"
    "There oughta be a law!"
    "There is! That's why we lose!"
  • Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes Issue #14: Hawkeye and the Blonde Phantom join forces to hunt a gang of criminals using a Bruce Banner lookalike to scare people, leading to this conversation:
    Blonde Phantom: You know what I think? There should be a law against posing as Bruce Banner and robbing a bank.
    Hawkeye: There is a law against robbing a bank.
  • In X-Men Noir, Professor Xavier taught the students at his reform school how to be better criminals instead of actually reforming them. He claims this was an exercise in gaining their trust. When one of his students took a dive off the roof, the investigation uncovered his operation. The X-Men escaped, but Xavier wasn't so lucky. He's sitting in Riker's until the D.A. can figure out just what to charge him with; there's really no law against giving someone boxing lessons, teaching them how to pick a lock, or taking them to the firing range.note 

    Comic Strips 
  • There Oughta Be a Law!, a newspaper comic (1948-1984) about daily annoyances and hypocrisy.
  • Parodies in the popular MAD article, "New Laws Congress Should Pass Right Now", which later begot a sequel.

    Fan Works 

  • A Certain Droll Hivemind: Played for Laughs. The clones, who have spent most of their lives being brutally murdered one by one, assume anyone and everyone will try to murder them at any time. Misaka-11111 perks up when she realizes that her opponent won't be allowed to kill her in training, and thinks this should be "standardised."
    It was also advisable to observe the limitations and powers of a lower-levelled Vector Controller. Going to school is supposed to be an education. This is the case. The Network also liked the bit where I got to shoot projectiles at a Vector Controller safe in the knowledge that if they killed us, they would get in trouble.
    We like this set-up. We feel it should be standardised. If people were not allowed to kill each other without getting in trouble, everything would be much nicer.

    Films — Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in the Credits Song of Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie
    There should be a rule that the song under the credits,
    Remotely pertains to the movie's basic plot.
    That rule has not been made, so for now we'll have to say
    Hey, hey, hey hey, hey hey hey hey!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Judge Dredd:
    Dredd: Emotions, there oughtta be a law against them.
  • Star Trek: Nemesis: Ironically, Romulan ale actually shouldn't be illegal at this point; the trade embargo against it had been lifted three years earlier, after the Romulans joined the Federation in the Dominion War, with no indication (until Nemesis) that the embargo was reinstated afterwards.
    Worf: Romulan ale should be illegal.
    Geordi: It is.
    Worf: Then it should be more illegal.
  • Victim: Inverted — the film's clear message is there should not be one criminalizing homosexual relations, as it only leads to gay men getting blackmailed as they're forcibly stuck in the closet.

    Literature 
  • In Jon Stewart's America (The Book), it's stated the President of the United States may say things like "There ought to be a law!", but he cannot make that law. He can only sign or not sign a law passed by the Congress. Sometimes, this can make the President feel like a pussy. Then he remembers that he still has control over the military, and a small island nation gets a can of "police action" opened up on it.
  • Alluded to in Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch. Fearing dire possibilities if the Bowenists come to Finch and actually settle there, Lori's neighbours Charles and Grant suggest she consult her husband Bill on potential legal remedies. Bill tells Lori that certain things are illegal (loitering, harassment, and so forth), but there's no legal way to prevent the New Age cultists from coming to Finch or buying property in the area.
  • Used for social commentary in Cry, the Beloved Country. After a black man kills a white man in pre-Apartheid white-dominated South Africa, a series of vignettes show various wealthy white people calling for even more institutionalized racism in the laws, most of which are ridiculous. One particular vignette has one man arguing that "the pass laws should be enforced," and his friend arguing back that they are unenforceable (but he can't think of anything better).
  • Depressingly invoked in Curtain. The killer, known only as 'Mr X', is unique in that he technically doesn't kill anyone. What he does instead is manipulate others into mental states where they become willing to kill others themselves, when they ordinarily would not do so, and usually are not aware of what he has done to them. Poirot considers Mr X to be a serial killer, but both he and Mr X are aware that under the law, Mr X has committed no crime and could not be held liable. So Poirot just kills him instead.
  • Discworld:
    • Used a huge amount in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch sub-series, as Commander Vimes has a very strong moral code, and frequently is filled with righteous anger. This is especially used in Snuff, when Commander Vimes is horrified at how Goblins are treated like vermin, rather than people, and insists that the law should be changed to give them all the rights of a normal person. He does this in the usual Vimesey way, of course: by swearing in a Goblin policeman. This is played realistically in the end: While the laws worldwide are changed to recognize the goblins' personhood, the murderer of a goblin girl cannot be charged even then because it wasn't illegal at the time. Vimes' Hypercompetent Sidekick handles that problem with a Vigilante Execution.
    • Also occasionally Vimes makes sarcastic remarks saying "There should be a Law against being bloody stupid," to which Corporal Littlebottom calmly replies "If so, sir, we'd never be off overtime." Ankh-Morpork actually does have a Being Bloody Stupid Act, though it's rarely enforced, probably because, as mentioned above, the Watch doesn't have enough time or available cells to arrest everyone who violates it.
    • Susan in Thief of Time mentions that the thought "there should be a law against that kind of thing" is a plant from the Auditors of Reality, in a continued psychological war effort to make life obey rules.
  • Don Quixote:
  • Played with twice by Fudge and Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. During Harry's trial Dumbledore states that there is no law stating that the Ministry can hand out school punishment; Fudge murmurs "Laws can be changed." When Dumbledore overrules Umbridge, forcing her to re-form the Gryffindor Quidditch team, she calls up Fudge and receives a nice educational decree ("Oh, not another one!") giving her absolute power.
  • Towards the beginning of the second book in The Riftwar Cycle, Princess Carline says to her minstrel lover that there should be a law about relationships like theirs. Laurie replies that there is — and under that law, his father is entitled to compensation for her having taking advantage of him (The law was written under the assumption that the situation would be a high-born male seducing a common-born woman, not a common-born man seducing a high-born woman).
  • Sherlock Holmes: In "A Case of Identity", Holmes figures out the identity of the wrongdoer — who became engaged to his stepdaughter under a fake identity and then staged the disappearance of his other self so that she wouldn't move out of his house and thus deprive him of her share of her mother's wealth — who is very quick to point out that he hasn't broken any law.
    "The law cannot, as you say, touch you," said Holmes, unlocking and throwing open the door, "yet there never was a man who deserved punishment more. If the young lady has a brother or a friend, he ought to lay a whip across your shoulders. By Jove!" he continued, flushing up at the sight of the bitter sneer upon the man's face, "it is not part of my duties to my client, but here's a hunting crop handy, and I think I shall just treat myself to—" He took two swift steps to the whip, but before he could grasp it there was a wild clatter of steps upon the stairs, the heavy hall door banged, and from the window we could see Mr. James Windibank running at the top of his speed down the road.
  • In See Delphi and Die, a volume in Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco series, the detectives travel to Greece, in part to track down a young woman who disappeared and whose father believes was kidnapped and murdered. When they find out that she was struck dead by lightning, and her aunt, a fanatic believer in the Greek gods, decided she had been "blessed by Zeus" and therefore concealed her body where she had been struck, they are profoundly depressed: no murder was committed, and there is no law that will call what her aunt did a crime, even if it subjected the girl's father to years of anguished uncertainty from which he will never fully recover.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In A Civil Campaign, one of the Counts has come up with a scheme: He collects all the viable ova that would have been discarded by fertility clinics in his district and has them fertilized to be gestated in Uterine Replicators, ending up with over a hundred new daughters. Dismayed by this, one character remarks that there "ought to be a law...", but Miles points out that there isn't — nothing that the Count has done is currently illegal, and when a new law is written to cover this, it can't be applied retroactively. Fortunately, Miles, his friends, and the Emperor are all masters of Laser-Guided Karma:
    "Dowries!? A hundred and eighteen Dowries!"
  • Played for laughs in the Warrior Cats book Bluestar's Prophecy, when Bluepaw suggests that there should be something in the warrior code allowing you to put thistles in your denmate's nest. Later, when Pinestar leaves his clan, Bluefur notes that she wouldn't be surprised if there was a rule added to the warrior code stating that warriors should reject the soft life of a kittypet. This is almost the exact wording the newly-enacted law uses.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Bones episode "The Girl with the Curl", the victim is a 9-year-old girl who was a beauty pageant participant. Pretty soon they discover that her mother put her in a corset every night, kept her on a strict diet for years, gave her growth hormones and drugs to control acne and perspiration, and was having a drink while her daughter disappeared from their hotel room. All this, while awful, is apparently not illegal, but Booth thinks it should be.
    Booth: Can't we just prosecute her for being horrible?
  • In a Bremner, Bird and Fortune "Two Johns" sketch parodying what bankers were saying after the banking crisis, hedge fund manager Sir George Parr at one point says the crisis was the government's fault for not making his actions illegal.
  • In the first episode of Carnival Row, the owner of a ship that was taking Fae refugees to the Burgue is helping the police with their enquiries and says "That's not illegal. Is it?" The racist cop he's talking to replies "No. But in my opinion it ought to be."
  • Century City was set 20 Minutes into the Future, so it often did this for issues that haven't come up yet, either seriously (clones need rights) or less than seriously (surgically created Hermaphrodites are disgusting).
  • Oscar Leroy of Corner Gas is a Grumpy Old Man who constantly annoys the local cops, demanding the arrest of people for doing things he doesn't like. In one episode they assumed he was dead just because he hadn't called in with any complaints in a while.
  • In CSI, a man and wife are partners in extreme backpacking and survival. Because he didn't want his wife to beat his own time through a course, the man altered her map to make her take a longer way around. This caused her to become trapped in a thunderstorm and drown. Because there was no intent to kill, it was ruled as an accident. Nick Stokes tells that man that what he did wasn't a crime, but it was criminal in his opinion.
  • CSI: NY:
    • The episode "Prey" had a stalker Asshole Victim who had already caused a victim to kill herself while performing actions that were either legal or only warranted a slap on the wrist. The whole episode was an Anvilicious tirade on how the law does very little to protect people from stalkers.
    • Another episode, "The Lying Game", had a case leading the team to a company specialized on making fake alibis (based on the real life Alibi Network) to cover up things like extra-marital affairs, etc; going so far as to provide fake receipts and an entire call center of people pretending to be representatives of companies that don't even exist. Flack is particularly annoyed by this and snipes that their services could have been used to cover up a murder (the two main suspects had alibis provided by the company). Turns out the two were just having an affair but the murder was still made to be indirectly caused by the company: The killer stumbled upon his coworker's (faked) receipts for "leadership seminars", thought this meant his boss was secretly training the coworker to be promoted instead of him and killed the boss.
  • In The Frankenstein Chronicles, Body Snatching is treated this way. John Marlott is incensed to see bodies being sold practically in the open, and asks a body snatcher how he gets away with it, only to be told "A corpse isn't property." In reality, body snatching was illegal at the time, but as a corpse genuinely wasn't considered a kind of property, body snatching was just a minor misdemeanor. In practice, authorities simply let it happen as it was seen as Necessarily Evil until the passage of the Anatomy Act, around which the first series of The Frankenstein Chronicles revolves.
  • Law & Order: On numerous occasions, McCoy put the "depraved indifference homicide" law to an unintended use, to punish tangentially related businesses or individuals who shared responsibility for the deaths in question, often dealing out the people who actually pulled the trigger to testify against them. Basically, legislating from the courtroom, which is quite illegal in western countries. The judiciary interprets the laws as they are, it doesn't make them. Sometimes he'd win, sometimes they'd deal out for restitution to avoid jail, and sometimes judges actually recognized when he'd legitimately gone too far. Some examples:
    • The episode "Hunters" has two bounty hunters get off on murder charges due to the loose definition of the law where recapturing fugitives is concerned. The judge concluded that the law "probably should" be tougher, but it isn't, so the two defendants are allowed to claim that the fugitive's girlfriend and her friend were "collateral damage", even though the fugitive they were pursuing wasn't even home at the time.
    • A gun manufacturer whose guns were easy to modify for full auto, and who refused to change the design to stop this, as removing this design flaw would make the weapon less popular. Basically the same as the case behind the film of Runaway Jury. In this case, the jury voted to convict the company but the judge overturned it due to lack of evidence that the company actually intended the guns to be used that way (not to mention federal laws barring such convictions).
    • A fast food chain who pressured their meat suppliers into taking shortcuts to meet quotas resulting in food poisoning and the deaths of several children.
    • A doctor running a fertility clinic was found to be using his own sperm, as opposed to "anonymous donors" as he'd been telling his patients. McCoy is morally outraged, but finds that he can't prosecute him as no law has been broken. Strictly speaking, the doctor himself was an anonymous donor, so he didn't technically lie to anyone. The best that can be hoped for is ethics charges, as criminally there is no case. He may have committed fraud in a couple instances where the patients wanted to be fertilized by their husband's sperm, but it would require a paternity test to prove someone else was the father, and the couples in question are so happy to have finally conceived a child that they refuse to take part in any prosecution and cannot be legally compelled to allow said testing. It's one of the few instances on the show where the good guys lose all around.
    • In another, he brings a senior executive that wouldn't promote his female employees unless they slept with him up on extortion charges, arguing that his behavior is the same as if common mobsters were shaking someone down for protection. The defense is livid at the notion, and The Judge admits that this is an unorthodox reading of the law, but is willing to allow it anyway and let the jury and/or appellate courts deal with the fallout, arguing that if the defendant's behavior was bad enough to set a new legal precedent, that's his problem.
    • The show does play this for comedy at least once, in an early episode where Cerreta and Logan are interviewing a video store clerk:
      Clerk: These kids were in here. Trying to get all kinds of hardcore stuff. Can you believe it? There oughtta be a law!
      Cerreta: There IS a law.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent doesn't feature this one as frequently as some of the other shows in the franchise, but it does happen a few times. "Magnificat" has a heart-wrenching example in the case of Paul Whitlock, an extreme emotional abuser whose wife kills three of their four children in a botched murder-suicide attempt. It becomes clear that Whitlock was responsible for pushing his wife to the edge, particularly in the way that he continued to browbeat and isolate her when any reasonable person should have seen that she was at her breaking point, but because he didn't actually have a direct hand in the incident, there is no way for him to be held legally accountable. Everyone involved is understandably upset by this fact.
    Goren: He could have prevented this crime, but he won't take responsibility for that! Mr. Carver! Isn't there something in this book that can make him take responsibility for that?
    Carver: [regretfully] There wasn't when I checked this morning.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit does this quite a bit, naturally.
    • "Clock" involved a 17-year-old girl who had a disease which made her look perpetually 10. The only men who would date her were pedophiles, and the officers kept trying to arrest her boyfriends for it. The judge ultimately rules that even if the men are only attracted to her because of how young she looks (not that they admit it) she is of legal age and there is no crime being committed. The consequences of this are shown when the two kiss on the sidewalk and a different detective tries to arrest the man. Stabler explains the situation, and reminds the girl this will probably happen all her life. She feels that having some kind of a relationship is worth it.
    • "Taboo" deals with a grown woman having an Electra Complex affair with her father; when one of the detectives fights to get them arrested for the relationship, she learns...
      Olivia: Adult incest isn't a crime?
      Casey: Not a sex crime. Under New York penal code, it's listed right next to adultery as an offense affecting the marital relationship.
      Olivia: That's insane.
      Casey: It's an "E" felony; he'd get... probation.
    • The SVU officers also have problems with victims of statutory rape being in love with, and wanting to be with, their rapists, even after said "victim" becomes an adult and can make such decisions as whom they fall in love with for themselves. The issue of consensuality seems to escape them at such times.
    • A more reasonable example occurs when they want to prosecute a reproductive abuser who gets woman pregnant without their knowledge (usually by poking holes in condoms) but there are no laws that cover his specific crimes (though they do later arrest him for facilitating an illegal adoption of one of his kids). Incidentally, the law has changed in this respect in the years since the episode aired, so clearly the fictional detectives weren't the only ones who wanted to see such things made illegal; today, they might be able to charge his actions as a form of rape, on the basis that the women only consented to protected sex and he knowingly changed the circumstances of the encounters, making them potentially non-consensual.
    • A justified version occurred in the episode "Ridicule" in which a male stripper was raped by three women. Since the law defined rape as involving penetration of the victim, as opposed to the penetration of the rapist that had taken place in this case, the defendant's first move was to contest the idea that what she did could be considered rape under the law. In a technical sense she actually had a scarily good case, highlighting the outdated definitions contained in many real life rape laws.
    • A different episode featured recorded video footage. The ADA compares this case to another one that got a conviction whereas this one won't and comments that it isn't wiretapping because there is no audio and laments that the law has yet to catch up to technology.
    • In "Babes", a teenage girl apparently commits suicide after being cruelly cyberbullied by her friend's mother. Unfortunately, there's no law on the books against cyberbullying, so the ADA has to try to twist some less-specific charges to fit. She's able to get to trial with it, but it's rendered moot when they learn that the girl was murdered rather than committing suicide.
    • "Scourge" features Cabot going after a life insurance company for murder because they failed to inform the health department (who would, in turn, have notified the patient) about a patient's case of syphilis, which allowed the disease to go untreated until it destroyed the patient's brain, causing him to become delusional and believe that God was commanding him to kill.note 
    • Yet another early episode features a company that produced virtual child pornography by digitally age-regressing photos of adults. Because none of their photos featured an actual child under the age of 18, technically no crime had been committed, but Cabot and the detectives aren't satisfied with this because it's still getting into the hands of actual pedophiles, one of whom was "inspired" by the images to go out and rape an actual child.
    • There was a similar case where a pedophile ran a site with pictures of children for fellow pedophiles to use as a pressure release. The children were fully dressed, not in sexual situations, and the pictures came from sources like school websites and parents' social media, so they weren't stolen, just gathered.
    • "Thought Criminal" has a man had built a sex dungeon and made it clear that he fantasized about using it for young boys. He even lived across the street from a school and frequently watched the kids on the playground. However, he had no direct interaction with the children, possessed no child pornography, and didn't even associate with other pedophiles, so there was nothing the police could do about it. They spent the whole episode trying to catch him on something, but the ruling was that they couldn't prosecute him for something he hadn't done.
    • The episode "Imposter" takes this to its logical conclusion. It features a man pretending to be the Director of Admissions at Hudson University, and using that to sleep with desperate mothers who want their children to get into Hudson in a quid pro quo exchange. Benson immediately declares it to be rape, but some of the other detectives are less certain, pointing out everyone lies to get sex. ADA Barba acknowledges that this is rape by fraud, which unfortunately New York has no laws against. He and Benson decide to take it to trial, hoping that this will bring the issue to the forefront and get the proper law passed. The judge isn't particularly impressed, and only lets it go on because kicking a rape case is very bad PR. The defense lawyer doesn't call any witnesses, and instead says that while she finds her client's behavior morally repugnant, it isn't illegal, so the jury has to find him not guilty. The judge then takes them both aside and "advises" Barba to offer a plea, and stresses the defense lawyer to take it as she's "a reasonable woman" and knows her client is an awful person. Barba takes a deal, as he recognizes that even if he does get a conviction, the judge will overturn it, as there is in fact no law being broken.
      Barba: This sounds like rape by fraud, problem is that doesn't exist in New York criminal code.
      Benson: I know... so maybe it's time we update New York law into the 21st century.
      Barba: Well, there have been rumblings about a new bill in the legislature, so this could kickstart things.
  • Monk plays this as a joke, constantly. Monk tries to get police officers to arrest people for doing things like not washing their hands. The biggest example is in "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man", where Monk goes absolutely crazy and comes up with insane reasons as to why nudist Chance Singer is the murderer. Towards the end of the episode, some of his theories basically accuse nudists of being a different species. He also references this trope phrase when he first arrives at the crime scene, saying "there should be a law against murdering people on a beach."
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • One episode had a Jerkass who Really Gets Around get a woman pregnant and then want nothing to do with her. She ended up dying horribly from drinking too much of a deadly substance trying to abort the baby. The lead characters lament being unable to arrest him despite him being technically responsible for her death, as being a philanderer isn't illegal.
    • Another episode ended with a Rich Bitch smugly pointing out that faking your own kidnapping and murder to teach your husband a lesson is not, in itself, illegal and should be considered a cruel prank at worst, that she couldn't be accused of wasting police time because she'd specifically said not to call them, and that unless they could prove she had any connection to the body that was disguised as her she didn't have to explain that part at all.
  • David in NUMB3RS basically acts like this in "Arm in Arms" toward the legal arms dealer Arvin Lindell, including basically kidnapping him, driving him out to a memorial, and leaving him there. Way to open the FBI to liability there, David.
  • The Practice did this constantly — most cases were thinly-disguised attempts to promote one agenda or another.
  • In the last season of Quincy, M.E., nearly every episode was an Anvilicious exposé of some activity that "oughta be illegal". From ghost surgery, to advertising alcohol on TV, to fraternity hazing, there was hardly a frowned-upon activity the show didn't attack.
  • On Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the eponymous character complains "Why don't they just outlaw all the illegal stuff?" after some hijinx with a fake ID.
  • Saturday Night Live's parody of fear mongering by local news stations:
    Reporter: They call it "souping" — teenagers are drinking expired soup cans to get high! Every teenager is doing it, and it will kill them! Parents are powerless to protect their teens because, shockingly, soup is legal.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • In "The Survivors", a Husnock ship attacks and destroys a human colony. Unfortunately for them, it turns out that one of the inhabitants is secretly a Sufficiently Advanced Alien who, none too happy about having all of his neighbors and his wife wiped off the face of the planet, proceeds to use his sciencey-magic Energy Being powers to eradicate every Husnock in existence, all fifty billion of them, in a fit of grief. When all this comes out, Captain Picard says, "We are not qualified to be your judges. We have no law to fit your crime." While this is not strictly true (genocide being a real crime recognized by The Federation), the fact that Picard would have no way of enforcing any legal punishment against such a being likely has more to do with it.
      • Lt. Barclay creates fantasy holodeck programs in "Hollow Pursuits", featuring the rest of the crew as caricatures of themselves. Riker finds out and objects that it is against regulations. When Geordi points out that no such regulation exists, Riker responds with this trope. Somewhat understandable, as Barclay's version of Riker was particularly unflattering. Troi defends Barclay's unusual characters, since they are a part of his personal fantasy life into which they were intruding (albeit justifiably), until she recoils at seeing her own doppelganger. Riker seizes the opportunity to get back at her for chiding him earlier. Later in the show, either through legislation or Retcon, it was decided that making doppelgangers of real people without their consent was against regulations.
    • One episode of Star Trek: Enterprise has Captain Archer, after a harsh debate over trying to save a lesser-advanced species from extinction, muse that, one day, Starfleet would have to make "a Directive" to prevent themselves from playing God.
  • In an early episode of The West Wing, we find out that a conservative Democratic congressman has made a "joke" in a speech at a military base about how if the liberal president were to show up there, the soldiers would probably kill him. Leo grumbles that "there oughta be a law against it," and Toby shouts, "There IS a law against it!" — by which he means conspiracy to commit murder, or even treason, and that they should haul the guy in and charge him with something. (Cooler heads prevail, obviously.)

    Music 
  • Played for Laughs in Trace Adkins' "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk". Considering how much the singer seems to enjoy watching those "Badonkadonks", it's doubtful he really wants the sheriff involved.
    There ought to be a law,
    Get the sheriff on the phone
    Lord have mercy, how'd she
    Even get them britches on?

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure take place in a setting where networked computing is a new invention. So when the SSS first finds Jona's Hacker Cave in the Geo-Front, Tio states that laws concerning what you can and can't do with the network haven't even been drafted yet, much less passed, so the most they can charge him with is squatting on government property.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue has this between the Chairman and the Director when it comes to light that the Director tortured an AI copy of himself to get personality-fragments. When confronted with the evidence, the culprit openly admits to the act, but points out that it wasn't illegal because he did it to "himself". Shortly thereafter, a whole battery of laws are passed to prevent things like this from happening again, and there's talk of naming them after the culprit.

    Websites 
  • In the "Lawnchair Larry" incident that was recorded in the Darwin Awards site (a man attached a large number of helium balloons to his lawnchair, achieved liftoff, and could not get down when he floated higher than expected), it was mentioned that the local FAA representative said that they'd like to charge him, if only they could figure out what for. Given that Larry eventually had to pay a number of fines, they must have found a way to cover his stunt in the regulations somehow.

    Web Videos 
  • This is DanTDM's entire basis behind the formation of the Dab Police, as he begins to find the dab increasingly overused and annoying.
  • SMPEarth originally had very few rules, aside from "don't cheat". Laws did end up being drafted after Technoblade and Philza used some obscure functions of the Factions plugin to claim the entire world!note  Admins Wilbur and Josh immediately noticed and called everyone down for a trial, but ended up not punishing Techno and Phil as what they did was perfectly within the rules. However, they did force them to unclaim everything and immediately wrote some new rules to stop people taking over the world again.

    Western Animation 
  • On an episode of Beetlejuice the Ghost with the Most says, "Rules... there ought to be a law against them!"
  • In the Family Guy episode "Internal Affairs", Joe and Bonnie have a falling out. After Joe tells Peter his first date took place at a strip club, Peter and Lois try to get the two to reunite there. Lois has lunch with Bonnie there, leaving Peter to bring Joe. He does that by calling the police and telling Joe there is a problem.
    Peter: Well, one of the dancers was dancing with a guy and saying, "You're my favorite, you're my favorite," but now she's dancing with another guy.
    Joe: That's not a crime.
    Peter: Well, shouldn't it be?!
  • In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield tried to eat the food in a museum display and then declared "There should be a law against plastic food!"
  • In the first episode of House of Mouse, when Pete first tried to evict Mickey, he failed because Mickey invoked a clause preventing Pete from terminating the rental contract for as long as there are patrons at the house. Pete said there should be a law against legal clauses.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: Strangely, very little of what the villains do is actually illegal. This is recognized in one episode, where Velma comments the monster didn't do anything illegal. The exception is when one of them, desperate to cover up their ruse, decides to kidnap Daphne. That is illegal, and then they get busted for it. Even then, however, one or two of the villains who kidnapped Daphne were let off the hook because they didn't really hurt her and Daphne was okay with it.
    • In an episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?, the culprit, the co-owner of a theme park, sabotaged the rides her sister designed out of jealousy. We're told at the end that the rides were actually still safe and only made to look sabotaged. This is rather questionable given that we saw her derail a roller coaster with Scooby and Shaggy on it, and almost got the others killed by removing a safety net over spinning fan blades.
      Park owner: I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids and your dog!
      Velma: Actually, you did get away with it! You didn't do anything illegal!
  • The Simpsons:
    • The Amendment to Be wants flag burning to be against the law because "those liberal freaks go too far".
    • Homer, on homosexuality:
      Homer: You know! It's not... usual. If there was a law, it'd be against it!
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode where Squidward moves into Tentacle Acres, a cephalopod-only gated community, after yet another one of SpongeBob's shenanigans, he eventually becomes so bored of how monotonous his routine's become, that he starts behaving much like SpongeBob. When the citizens corner him and try to evict him for citing all the nuisances they listed against him, he retorts with:
    Squidward: Grievances! This town is a grievance! There should be a law against so many stuck-up tightwads living in one place! This city needs to be destroyed! Or at least, painted a different color.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: A rare example of someone doing this to themselves. Apothecary Sherry sells yada-yada berries, which have no purpose besides turning people to stone. She fully admits that they should probably be illegal, but they're not, so no-one can punish her for selling them.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of Transformers: Animated, which somewhat makes sense if you think of car parts as a robotic analogue to donor organs:
    Ratchet: It's primitive... it's barbaric... there ought to be a law against it!
    Optimus Prime: It's just an auto supply store, Ratchet.
    Ratchet: You mean they actually sell spare parts on the open market?

Alternative Title(s): There Oughtta Be A Law, There Ought To Be A Law

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