Author’s Note: Multiple Jeopardy

So, yeah.

Here’s how the legal system – well, the Empire’s legal system, anyway – copes with forking.  You are liable for all the crimes committed by you, or by the lineal fork-ancestors from which you descend.  So if you commit the crime first, and then fork, both of you are liable.  But if you fork, and then the other you commits the crime, you’re not liable, because you had neither mens rea nor actus reus.  See?

(And, obvs., if you merge, you’re liable for whatever your constituents did, pre-merge.)

Unless you decided to commit the crime before you forked, and only one of you actually did it, because then both of you had mens rea.  In which case, the one of you who did it will be prosecuted for committing the crime, and the other one of you will be prosecuted for conspiring to commit the crime – with yourself, sure, but conspiracy is conspiracy.  And conveniently enough, under Imperial law, the penalty for conspiring to commit a crime is almost always identical to the penalty for actually committing it.

This applies even if you, the fork that didn’t commit the crime, don’t remember conspiring to commit the crime, because your progenitor redacted it out of your mind-state.  Whether you remember it or not, you’re still the person that decided to commit the crime, which means you still had mens rea, even if you don’t remember having had it.

Unless, that is, the redactions and other mental editing done to you are sufficiently large to render you a different individual, for legal purposes, because that’s legally equivalent to killing yourself and creating someone new, and you can’t be held liable for the crimes of your creator any more than you can be held liable for the crimes of your parents.

And then there’s what happens if you decide to commit a bank robbery, say, and then fork, and then the fork that commits the crime has his plan go south and kills someone in the course of the robbery, in which case that fork can be prosecuted for corpicide or cognicide, as relevant, but the other fork of you can only be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit the robbery, since mens rea for that existed before the split, but that for the murder did not.

Now, about those three-fork cases…

2 thoughts on “Author’s Note: Multiple Jeopardy

    • Not as such. They wouldn’t like it as a broad rule, just because it paints with too wide a brush, and they’re very keen, justice-wise, on everyone getting exactly what they deserve, no more, no less – and if you put together a nice little polite bank robbery and one of your associates turned out to be an idiot and shot someone, it seems to them a little unjust to put his actions on your bill, so to speak.

      In at least some of the cases it would be applied to, though – well, if there’s evidence that you knew your associate was an unstable violent type, or failed to abort your plan when it became obvious that that’s where it was going to end up, or otherwise demonstrated what I think we’d call “indifference to sophont life”, then that’s certainly enough to add a very stiff “Reckless Endangerment” on to the indictment – and given the scale of the endangerment in question, the effect is likely to be much the same. (Which could apply to the fork case up above, but there’s already so much complication in the post, I wasn’t going to get into that there… 🙂 )

      (In the special case where you can be charged with felony murder because the police accidentally killed someone in the course of dealing with the crime – well, then, that’s where it gets complicated, as the prosecution and the court then has to sort out how much of that was you putting the victim in harm’s way and how much of that was the police performing below the level of competence that they’re expected to have, and as such whether to charge you with endangerment, them with negligence, or both, and to what degrees. But if they wanted an easy job, they probably shouldn’t have gone to law school…)

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