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September 30, 2010

Vampire Legal Issues: "Bad Moon Rising"

TV: The Vampire Diaries

Katie: Okay, the Lockwoods said the word "liable" several times. I know you're just chomping at the bit here. Go ahead.

Christine: Mason and Mrs. Lockwood are right. If someone were to get hurt at Tyler's party, the Lockwoods would be liable as long as the injury was reasonably foreseeable - which, as I think the kids were probably drinking, it would have been. Booze and swimming don't mix. This is complicated by the fact that I think the swimming hole is not man-made, which means it might have crevices or underwater caves or similar that the Lockwoods would have reason to know about but their guests wouldn't. If one of the kids were to get stuck underwater and drown because the Lockwoods hadn't warned them of the danger, that would be bad. Of course, this is all civil liability - the Lockwoods wouldn't be criminally liable for injuries on their land unless they actually caused them. So Mrs. Lockwood won't go to jail, at least. I could go on for pages about this, but I like you, so I won't. I know you were really curious about Alaric's responsibilities when he takes Elena on their road trip.

Katie: What exactly was Alaric thinking? Are there any legal issues with teachers transporting their minor students across state lines without written permission and for non-school-related activities? Is Alaric always acting in loco parentis, or just when they're physically in the school building? How about in the school building after school hours?

Christine: Teachers are only in loco parentis in limited circumstances - basically when acting in the course of their professional duties, or for furthering educational purposes, which this trip was not at all. Going to Duke was completely extracurricular; Alaric wasn't acting as Elena's teacher, he was acting as a family friend. There's no issue there either, because to be in loco parentis you have to act as the parent - financially, emotionally, etc. A day trip just isn't going to be enough. I don't see how they'd run into legal issues unless Jenna complained, because Elena's a minor and Jenna is the only adult who'd have the right to bring suit in her name. Since Alaric is taking Elena on the trip with Jenna's permission, he's good.

Katie: Oh, yes, I wasn't concerned about the family friend part, just the teacher part.

Christine: Oh, OK. Basically, Alaric won't get in any trouble for taking Elena across state lines in the company of a homicidal psychopath. Though if said psychopath hurt Elena, I suppose he might be an accessory. That's criminal, though. Nothing to do with parental anything. Oh, and disclaimer here: I should point out that I'm just looking at common law - I haven't bothered going into the Virginia statutes, because the issues we're looking at are fairly vague and also I like the common law better. Laws vary from state to state, but are usually broadly similar.

Katie: Okay! Are there any other topics? Hmmm.

Christine: I don't think so, though I vaguely wondered whether, were she charged with attempted murder, Vanessa the grad student could use insanity as a defense if she convinced the court she truly believed that Elena was an eeeevil vampire. Clearly self-defense wouldn't work because the danger wasn't imminent, though you could argue that with the vampire the danger is always imminent. Hmm. I have no solution to this and it's totally pointless, but it's legal, so here it is.

Katie: Would insanity only work if the court didn't believe there were in fact vampires? Hmmm.

Christine: Vanessa would have to show that a mental disease or defect either prevented her from understanding that her actions were criminal or made it impossible for her to conform to the law. I suppose her insistence on the existence of vampires would help, unless the judge and jury were in on the secret. Insanity's a pretty high bar, though.

Katie: It is, but perhaps the fact that we spend so much time figuring this stuff out just proves that we're insane. Ah well. Until next week, when flashbacks will allow me to demand you research 1864 law!

Posted by Kat at September 30, 2010 05:00 PM
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