Imperial Law Overview
This page is intended to provide an out-of-character summary of the Imperial Law; it details the basic principles of the law and the key concepts. Most players should be able to get a general feel for the laws of the Empire from reviewing this page.
Principles of Imperial law
The principles of Imperial Law are contained in its constitutional documents. The Imperial Constitution sets out:
- the principles underlying the relationship between the Nations and the Empire and the role of the Imperial Civil Service;
- the organs of the state and their appointed representatives; and
- the principles underlying the relationship between the citizen and the state.
The nations which comprise the Empire are governed by Imperial Law which applies equally everywhere in the Empire. While each nation has its own traditions and customs they are superseded in circumstances where they conflict with Imperial Law. Imperial law is based on principles rather than legalistic precedents set by previous cases.
Any member of the Imperial Senate may submit a bill or motion to the civil service who will table it for debate by the Senate. There are additional requirements which apply to pass any legislation which amends the constitution. The Synod General Assembly have powers to veto legislation, particularly where it changes the constitution.
Those accused of crimes or engaged in civil claims are normally be expected to speak for themselves. Accordingly, there is no tradition of barristers within the Empire. You can play a lawyer who advises their clients about the law, but imperial law is intended to be simple to understand without being an expert.
Magistrates are non-player characters who are accorded wide-ranging discretionary powers under the constitution to investigate and try those accused of crimes and arbitrate in civil disputes. We will never run plot in Empire involving the corruption of magistrates or any other NPC civil servants.
The Imperial Synod have a number of legal powers which they use in furtherance of their role to ensure the spiritual wellbeing of the Empire. They also have a key role to play in the prosecution of religious crimes.
Individuals and the law
All characters in Empire will fall into one of the following broad categories in relation to the law:
- Citizens of the Empire must fulfil their obligations to the State and in return they receive associated rights, including protection under Imperial law.
- The child of an Imperial citizen has the full protection of the law as if they were a citizen. Until a child becomes a citizen their parents or guardians are responsible in law for any criminal or civil offences that they commit.
- Barbarians are defined as anyone with whom the Empire is at war. They have no recourse to Imperial Law (with one major exception, see below) but they may be the subject of it. eternals and the heralds of eternals who are the subject of a declaration of enmity by the Imperial Conclave are considered enemies of the Empire and treated as barbarians. Unauthorised dealings with barbarians is illegal and will be investigated as treason. More information, including a list of eternals currently under enmity, can be found here.
- Any delegations from barbarian nations who arrive on the field of anvil under a flag of peace have protection under the law as if they were imperial citizens for the duration of their visit and for their direct passage out of the empire.
- Broadly, foreigners are any person who is neither a citizen nor a barbarian. Foreigners are subject to the law and are accorded protection by it as if they were a citizen, but they do not otherwise enjoy the benefits of citizenship. However, eternals, and the heralds of eternals, are not treated as foreigners (thereby receiving protection under the law) unless they are the subject of a declaration of amity made by the Imperial Conclave.
- If a citizen forswears their oath to their Egregore and thereby ceases to be a citizen they become a foreigner (and so still benefit from the protection of the law). Citizens and former citizens who fight against the Empire will (if feasible) be tried for their crimes, rather than be treated as barbarians. Humans of the Mourn are granted full legal protection.
- It is legal to send military units to support either suppress or support the uprising in Asavea.
Five things about Imperial Law
- There is no right to silence for those accused of crimes. When questioned by a magistrate or deputised member of the militia in furtherance of their duties an accused must answer. If they do not a magistrate may draw an adverse inference. All citizens who witness crimes are expected to promptly inform either a member of the militia or a magistrate. Concealing crimes or assisting others to evade arrest is a serious offence.
- There are no prisons in the Empire. Those accused of crimes are usually released upon swearing an oath that they will attend their trial at the time set by the magistrate. Thief-takers will be ready to recapture them for a reward if they abscond.
- A citizen cannot be punished for saying that they will do something (which is illegal) before they have done it. Accordingly there are no laws which prohibit blackmail, threats of violence and so on. However, anything a citizen says may be used in evidence against them. So if a citizen threatens to kill someone and that person is then murdered, their death threats are potential evidence.
- Slavery is illegal in the Empire.
- Magistrates will use their absolute discretion as to what evidence they will consider when coming to their verdict. So a magistrate might choose to hear out a particular witness's testimony, or they may stop, redirect or dismiss them, entirely as they see fit.