Magic and the Law
A brief overview
A felony committed using magic is always considered a premediated act. Killing someone with magic is considered first-degree murder if brought to trial, unless it is possible to prove self-defense or other mitigating circumstances.
Criminal acts committed by a spirit or other summoned creature are the responsibility of the mage who summoned the creature, regardless of whether or not the creature was under the summoner’s control at the time.
Some countries, with more personal freedoms, do not allow magical methods such as mind probes and aura reading as part of evidence production. Though even in those countries the reading of an astral signature to identify a person as to who they claim to be, in the same manner as we using finger prints today, is generally allowed. Other countries, with more limited freedoms, are more than happy to allow for the use of mind probes and aura reading as a valid tool in evidence gathering.
Increasingly large jurisdictions employ a forensic magician, whose position is analogous to a coroner or medical examiner. When testimony on magic is presented as admissible evidence, it is always subject to scrutiny by a duly sworn forensic magician in these cases. This includes evidence obtainable only in astral space.
Evidence or testimony provided by spirits, summoned creatures, or other extra dimensional creatures is generally not admissible in most courts of law as such creatures are notably untrustworthy as reliable witnesses. The country of Lantis makes an exception for certain Fey envoys but that is a limited exception. Even if a magician summons, or claims to summon, the spirit of a deceased victim to identify a killer, such evidence cannot be considered by a judge or jury. Such spirits, however, have occasionally led investigators to uncover hard evidence of crimes.
Different countries rule differently with regards to the rights of sentient creatures and their rights under the law. For example, Amazonia grants full citizenship and rights to any sentient creature whereas The Grey Empire technically only grants these rights to sentient humanoids recognized by the Emperor as non-threatening members of the Empire (for the current Emperor this lists includes humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, clockwork men, halflings, dragonborn, orcs, ogres, beastmen, and tieflings).
Similarly, different jurisdictions rule differently on what types of magic need to be registered with the authorities and whether or not a permit is required to practice certain types of magic or use certain types of magic items. Again some examples, in all nations except the Deadlands the practice of Necromancy is at least restricted (thus requiring registration and permit) if not completely banned (a special permit might allow for exceptions from a ban) as is Demonology. Or, when an artifact is brought into a nation, all rulers expect to be notified of such WMDs (Wonders of Mass Dynamics).
How to Deal with Mages
How to deal with criminal mages is a serious issue for many jurisdictions. Mages have abilities beyond those of the mundanes and cannot be easily “disarmed”. Prisons cannot afford the expense of providing magical guards for each magical prisoner, so generally they use more expedient methods.
For short-term imprisonment or restraint of a criminal mage, a device known as a magemask is used. It consists of a black hood that fits over the prisoner’s head, completely cutting off line of sight. A gag-tube prevents the mage from speaking but allows him or her to breathe normally. The magemask is used in conjunction with mundane restraining devices such as manacles and even straightjackets.
For long-term imprisonment, most municipalities use drugs to interfere with a mage’s concentration. Prisons holding mages are typically warded and underground, and provided with other means of astral security as well. Of course, some municipalities just deal with mages by instituting a death penality instead of long-term imprisonment. One country is said to have a gorgon on staff and petrifies recalcitrant mages.
Some jurisdictions use drug treatments or radical surgery to permanently remove a magical criminal’s ability to use magic. These treatments remove some or all of a person’s magical powers and often leave the subject with a permanent mental or physical disability to boot. This is general only found in more totalitarian societies, but not exclusively. Rumors about of nobles and governments cutting deals with magical criminals, giving them their freedom in exchange for promises of long-term service (usually enforced by geas and/or contingent death spells).