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September 09, 2010

Vampire Legal Issues: First in a continuing series

TV: The Vampire Diaries

Instead of writing episode recaps like every other blog out there, I decided to take a slightly different slant for my Vampire Diaries posts this season. I'll be examining the TVD world's vampire rules and the various legal issues the show brings up, and I'm even bringing in a legal consultant! My law student friend Christine will be with me each week. So if YOU have lingering Vampire Legal Questions, please let me know in the comments. And now I'll let Christine explain what we're doing:

We talk about The Vampire Diaries. A LOT. And our conversations generally go something like this:
Katie: "FEELINGS!"
Christine: "Whatever. How does that WORK?"
Katie: "What?"
Christine: "I mean, how can they possibly own the boarding house? Look at it! It's missing the central hallway typical of antebellum homes! It must have been built after they died, but how can they have gotten title to it then? There's no dead hand control in property law, Katie."
Katie: "You are SUCH a dork."

And we can't keep such brilliance to ourselves. Besides, we thought that posing some of these terribly important questions would be a unique way to look at the show as it enters season two. (I should point out that yes, many of these issues could be fixed by compulsion, and yes, I realize it's magic. But I can't stop myself wondering.)

For example, here are some of the issues that we wondered about last season:
1) Zach says, early on, that he doesn't own the Salvatore boarding house. It seems that Stefan and Damon do. But HOW? Their name can't be on the deed, because they've been dead for 145 years, and besides, the house was built after they died (or so I assume, from its architecture; I suppose there could have just been some major renovations). Surely some enterprising county record office clerk would notice if the house didn't change hands for that long. So do they have a large number of fake identities they rotate through? Lawyers who forge the necessary documents for them? I'm not just talking deeds to real property- what about identification cards, bank accounts, and the titles to their cute little sports cars?
2) Poor, poor Alaric. Not only did his wife leave him alone and grieving, but she left him in legal limbo. We know that, as far as the North Carolina police are concerned, Isobel's case has gone cold. Has Ric had her declared legally dead? How did he dispose of jointly owned property in NC before moving to Mystic Falls? What if he wants to marry Aunt Jenna? Bigamy is SO not going to fly, Ric. (Except here, obviously.)
3) INVITES. This is my biggest area of fascination - so much so that I even pulled out my first year property law hornbook, much to Katie's amusement. The show's mythology, as we've seen it so far, implies that the invite must be verbal and explicit, and from a person who has a right to reside in the property in question. But:
a) Why can't an invite be implied? This is a form v. function sort of argument; in many areas of law, your intention can override your failure to follow the proper legal procedures to the letter. Why does tilting your head to indicate an invitation, while saying "the kitchen is this way" not constitute an invite?
b) What if the property changes hands while a vampire is inside, and the new owner refuses to issue an invite? Would the vampire have the magical equivalent of a right of occupancy until he left the property?

Posted by Kat at September 9, 2010 05:30 PM

You are SUCH a dork!

Posted by: Manu at September 9, 2010 08:23 PM
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