Officers of the Law
Officers of the law include:
- Civil service legislators and administrators, primarily supporting the Imperial Senate; these are always Non-Player Characters.
- Civil service magistrates, presiding over the militia and the courts; these are always Non-Player Characters
- The imperial militia; these are almost always Player Characters, but may also be Non-Player Characters
In Empire players will have the opportunity to be deputised into the imperial militia during the course of play. The militia are all drawn from the player base and they are responsible for investigating crime and maintaining law and order. If you wish to apply to join the militia you should approach a magistrate during time-in. If the militia are currently recruiting they will hold interviews in order to select the very best candidates. No advantage will be gained from including in your character’s background that they have been involved in imperial law enforcement in their past.
Those who collect bounties on suspects who have absconded are called bounty hunters or sometimes Thief-takers. They are not officers of the law but they do interact regularly with both the militia and those accused of crimes. Anyone is entitled to collect the bounty available for capturing a fugitive.
Magistrates are those members of the civil service who are empowered to uphold the law by:
- investigating crimes;
- deputising citizens into the imperial militia;
- dismissing charges for which there appears to be no case to answer;
- setting bond conditions (if any) for accused who are arrested but not immediately tried;
- trying the accused and setting punishments for the guilty;
- attending to judicial matters referred to them by the Senate or Synod; and
- adjudicating civil cases .
Magistrates additionally have the powers which are granted to a deputised member of the militia. The reality is that a large portion of the work entailed in running the justice system is carried out by citizens who are deputised into the imperial militia.
When time permits most magistrates will be happy to answer specific legal queries relating to a citizen’s circumstances.
Civil servants (including magistrates) may be asked questions which relate to IC or OOC game functions. Civil servants are obliged to maintain strict confidentiality about such private discussions so that players may feel free to ask any questions without fear that they will be subject to legal scrutiny.
The Imperial Militia
It is a constitutional obligation for a citizen who has been deputised into the militia to carry out their responsibilities. In practice it would only be in exceptional circumstances that a magistrate would suborn a citizen into the militia involuntarily. A magistrate may deputise a citizen into the militia either temporarily or until such time as they relieve them of their duties. Citizens deputised into the militia are expected to follow the lawful orders of magistrates.
All serving members of the militia have the following general powers and obligations:
- to take reasonable steps to prevent crime and maintain public order;
- to apprehend those suspected of crime(s) in progress and to bring them before a magistrate;
- to report any crimes which require investigating to a magistrate.
Magistrates will also appoint members of the militia to investigate specific crimes (a case). While appointed to investigate a case a member of the militia is both duty-bound and empowered to:
- take reasonable steps to gather evidence in furtherance of their investigation (for example, the questioning of witnesses, performing necessary searches and the seizing of evidence);
- arrest suspects and to bring them before the investigating magistrate;
- to parade the accused before thief-takers before their release;
- to produce at trial those witnesses who are called on to provide testimony;
- to produce any other relevant evidence at trial;
- to ensure that security is maintained at the trial, to support the magistrate's authority and to carry out such other court functions as the magistrate deems appropriate;
- to convey to and carry out punishments where applicable (specialists are sometimes deputised to the militia for executions).
Militia members appointed to oversee a case are referred to as investigating officers. All members of the militia are expected to liaise with the investigating officer and magistrate appropriately.
Members of the militia who distinguish themselves may be given an imperial warrant by a magistrate. This warrant signifies their seniority.
Warrant officers have the following additional powers:
- to deputise citizens into the imperial militia;
- to begin investigations into new crimes under their own authority; and
- to oversee pre-trial cases in progress.
They must still liaise as appropriate with magistrates, but are given more latitude in how they attend to their duties.
Members of the militia (and magistrates) may not enter a place of sanctuary without the express permission of a priest who is responsible for it. Even if permitted to enter they may not arrest or otherwise interfere with anyone within who has been granted sanctuary. An accused may only claim sanctuary for a limited period, usually one hour. This period allows the accused to make a confession and to ask a priest to attend them at trial so that a plea for clemency can be made on their behalf.
Members of the militia are usually only paid reasonable expenses, but they may receive other rewards at the discretion of the investigating magistrate. However members of the militia have good opportunities to gain bounties for recapturing suspects who are released on bond and who have absconded.
Members of the militia who are caught neglecting their duties or abusing their powers will have to account for themselves to a magistrate. Minor infringements will be dealt with informally but more serious failings will lead to dismissal and/or criminal charges. Militia members who use their position to pervert the course of justice will be dealt with severely.
It is a crime under the imperial constitution to incarcerate a citizen, even if they are accused, or convicted of crimes. Some argue that this has its basis in religious belief, since to incarcerate the body, thus forcing it into a state of inaction, stagnates the soul. It is better for the wrongdoer to suffer their punishment and rejoin society to perform a useful function. If it is justified by the crime, or if the convict is too dangerous to be given their freedom, then death is the best alternative. In life, the soul develops, in death the soul is given another opportunity through the medium of reincarnation.
Note that while this approach does not prevent a citizen from being arrested and held in lawful custody, it is illegal for them to be incarcerated and left to languish on their own.
As a consequence of this approach the Empire allows the majority of citizens who are accused of crimes to carry on with their lives if there is a need for a delay before their trial can take place. During the pre-trial process of criminal trials the accused is required to swear an oath that they will present themselves for their trial.
After the accused is released, it is usual for the militia to show them to local thief-takers so that their identity is known to them. This “culprit’s walk” is accomplished today by parading the accused around the Imperial orc camp. The thief-takers are usually joined by interested observers from other Imperial nations, especially Varushkan and Temeschwari bounty-hunters and Marcher beaters.
If the accused absconds and is recaptured a reward will usually be paid by the investigating magistrate. The state also occasionally auctions off assets which are forfeited as a result of fines.
Potentially any citizen (including a member of the militia) may claim the reward for recapturing an absconder not just thief-takers. In practice the militia and those thief-takers who are on good terms with them are in the best position to to identify (and therefore catch) absconders.