Paragons - Next Gen
Paragons and the Law
THE REGISTRATION ACT
In 1999, the US government passed the Paranormal Registration Act. The act created an associated agency (the Paranormal Regulatory Agency) that operates under the auspices of the Census Bureau. Technically speaking, the PRA has no enforcement powers. It can’t force paranormals to register, nor is such registration mandatory.
However, societal and private business pressures have made it incredibly difficult for non-registered paranormals to live normal lives unless they keep their status as a paranormal hidden. Insurance companies can refuse to insure them, potential landlords could refuse them, employers decline to employ them, and so forth.
Being a registered paranormal does not necessarily always make these problems go away. In the case of most forms of insurance, for example, registered paranormals tend to pay higher premiums than normal people. However, when the alternatives are to either live in secret or not have insurance at all, many paranormals choose to register and deal with the consequences that being registered may have.
Registered paranormals aren’t required, by law, to inform anyone of their status. However, it’s also not illegal for documents or interviews to directly ask if someone is a registered paranormal, and so declining to answer or lying about one’s status could have other associated consequences (like being terminated from your job or being evicted) if the truth is discovered later.
Registration details aren’t publicly accessible information, for reasons of privacy and personal safety. However, they’re freely available to law enforcement officials, government agencies, and in some cases limited access is given to private groups like the Transnational Guard if it is considered relevant to an imminent threat or paracriminal activity.
How employers, insurers, unions, service providers, and other groups react to and treat registered paranormals is highly individual, and some companies and groups are known to be more “paranormal friendly” than others.
The United States isn’t the only country with this form of registration system. Canada, Australia, Mexico, and the countries of the European Union all use similar systems, while in some countries registration is mandatory or otherwise compelled.
Mind probes, psychometry, and similar paranormal senses have tremendous potential to violate personal privacy. In most criminal justice systems, they’re not considered evidence or even admissible in a court of law. Mind-reading is considered a violation of the right against self-incrimination in the United States and similar legal systems. At best, a paranormal witness may be permitted to testify as to what he or she perceived, but such testimony will usually be thrown out or treated as circumstantial evidence at best.
Even over a decade after the Wave, privacy laws and the place of paranormals in the courtroom is still something that the legal system is running to try to catch up with. Some paranormals purport to have the ability to perfectly tell whether or not someone is lying, and while such a power might be considered revolutionary to the judicial system, the failure of paranormals to scientifically substantiate how or why their powers work give them less credibility as an expert witness when compared to experts in sciences like the Facial Action Coding System.
The neutrality of paranormals is also called into question when it comes to any capability they have to observe things others cannot and intrude on the privacy of others. Many members of the Guard and other “super-heroes” find themselves vexed when they actually attempt to testify in court and find that information gleaned via paranormal abilities are disregarded due to being unable to be verified by any neutral third party.
The privacy of paranormals themselves is often a complex matter. While the PRA attempts to ensure confidentiality of its registrants’ identities, the registry is still available to law enforcement and government agencies. As a result, registered paranormals often find their privacy completely disregarded if they are ever suspected of wrong-doing, with many complaining about “that knock on the door” every time there’s a paranormal incident within the same city as they reside.
In the 14 years since the Wave, unique legal problems have surfaced related to paranormals and the things they can do. This is not restricted to obvious examples of terrorism or “super-villainy”, but also a host of other issues that might not seem obvious to law-makers until suddenly a case appears that presents the problem.
- Paranormal sensory abilities can invade the privacy of others, making it possible to spy or commit acts of voyeurism, or even to eavesdrop on someone’s private thoughts or memories.
- Precognitive and probability altering powers allow paranormals obvious unfair advantages in the world of finance. Not just in terms of the classic “cleaning up in Vegas” gambling scenarios, but also in paranormal versions of insider trading or other speculative commercial enterprises.
- While controlling someone’s mind is obviously criminal, the responsibility of those who committed acts while under paranormal influence are highly questionable. Even when the liability might be clear, proving you were mind-controlled might very well be impossible.
- Teleportation, flight, and intangibility allow numerous opportunities for trespassing and violations of privacy. For that matter, they may constitute a serious traffic hazard in some areas. A single paranormal with flight powers might cause a nightmare for FAA flight plans, for instance.
In most cases, the legal standard lies with proving the influence or usage of paranormal powers, or at the very least, showing that the paranormal had both capability and motive to do the these things. Mind control presents a particularly complex issue, since “It wasn’t me, I was being mind-controlled!” is an incredibly easy alibi for almost any crime. In such instances, eyewitness testimony about the accused’s behavior as well as expert testimony from scientists and even other paranormals is usually the determining factor.
This is yet another area where being registered can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, being registered allows a paranormal to work with authorities and officials to keep them from getting into trouble or being accused of things (the FAA really appreciates when paranormals register a flight plan with them) but being a registered telepath might cause undue harassment anytime someone in your neighborhood claims to be the victim of mind control to get themselves out of a crime.
Even working a mundane job as a paranormal can suddenly find a person subject to accusations or suspicion, especially if one’s powers are somehow related to how one does their job. While a paranormal with healing powers might seem ideal to work in a hospital’s emergency room, most hospitals and malpractice insurers are unwilling to expose themselves to the potential legal risks of having a person who isn’t a doctor or even a nurse performing medicine. After all, how would the hospital handle a complaint or accusation from a patient that claims their health was worsened by a paranormal’s efforts?
False accusations of criminal activity and the suspicion that might be generated by working a job even remotely related to your powers is why most paranormals opt to go into relief agencies or super-heroics like the Transnational Guard or become criminals themselves, essentially confirming suspicions and stereotypes.
Emulating comic book super-heroes, some paranormals choose to use their talents to fight crime or arrest criminals. This means the legal system has to deal with parahuman vigilantes more capable than entire police departments. The legal ramifications are considerable, but hinge on a few important points.
Some paranormals may actually work as law enforcement officers, either with local police forces or under the umbrella of a national agency like the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Critical Incident Response Group or the Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.
These individuals operate with official sanction, but they’re also bound by the same rules and regulations as ordinary people within their agency. Thus paranormal police have to work within the bounds of just cause, Miranada rights, and so forth. Officials and the public are likely to scrutinize the activities of paranormal officers even more than their counter-parts to ensure proper procedures are followed.
Often the only paranormals who are capable of maintaining a career as a law enforcement officer are ones whose abilities have no direct impact on, or questioning of, the rights of the accused. For example, a police officer who can shoot lightning or fly might find it easy to have his ability to do his job unquestioned, but a paranormal federal agent who can predict the future or read minds raises such a host of difficult questions that in such cases, the individual is asked to resign.
In the case of law enforcement or government officials who experience a break-out after they’ve already taken on their careers (and especially if it happens in the line of duty), it’s generally expected that they resign their position rather than risk damaging their reputation or calling their work into question. Some police unions even consider this a form of injury or disability, and the officer resigns with full benefits and compensatory pay.
Not all super-heroes are members of the Transnational Guard. Some operate as independent costumed vigilantes of wildly varying legality and tolerance from the police. Some are registered paranormals who enjoy a friendly relationship with their local police (who might even know their secret identity), others are dangerous individuals who are considered as much criminals as the people they fight.
Common law in many nations allow civilians to detain criminals until the police can arrive, and paranormals have a much greater ability to do so without risk to themselves (and, ideally, to the criminal or any bystanders).
Citizen’s arrests are much easier for paranormals; they’re not subject to the same regulations as arrests made by police, and a paragon who sees a crime in progress, or has reason to believe a crime has been committed, can take action. In particular, civilians are not subject to the same search and seizure regulations as police officers, so a paranormal can, for example, act on information gained from unusual senses, so long as there’s some hard evidence to back it up.
The big drawback is civilians making citizen’s arrests have no legal protection from the consequences of their actions should they prove mistaken or go too far in their attempts. They’re subject to civil and criminal action for wrongful or malicious arrest, harassment, or the use of excessive force in making the arrest.
They can also run into problems of evidence; while paranormal civilians don’t need search warrants or the like, they do need to turn up evidence admissible in a court of law. You can’t arrest someone for something they haven’t yet done or based on reading their mind to determine their guilt, for example, unless there is some other evidence of pre-meditation or a crime being committed. These risks make some paranormals less willing to put themselves out there and make arrests without sanction.
THE TRANSNATIONAL GUARD
The Transnational Guard occupies a unique place in law enforcement and in particular the apprehension of paracriminals. As a non-government organization, the Guard has no official powers, and intrinsically a Guard member has no more power or authority than any citizen.
However, over the years of the Guard’s existence, it has managed to strike a number of understandings with friendly governments and law enforcement agencies. In the United States, Guard members are treated as police consultants and, in hostile incidents, temporarily brought under the authority of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group.
Interactions with local and state law enforcement agencies tend to cause some friction. While the FBI has worked with the Transnational Guard extensively over the past ten years, many local and state agencies might have lukewarm or downright hostile responses to the interference of “capes” in real police work. Similar to the sort of jurisdiction animosity that can exist between different levels of law enforcement, in some areas Guard members might find themselves getting a barely compliant cold-shoulder from the local PD.
The Vitruvian Institute’s new facility to train a new generation of the Transnational Guard is attempting to change all that, educating their members in the actual realities of police work and trying to prove that the Guard are not a bunch of “amateurs in tights”.
In the American criminal justice system, the accused has a right to face his or her accusers. This generally means witnesses are expected to appear in court, state their full names and places of residence, and be sworn-in to testify under oath. Some paranormals, for their own personal safety and the safety of their family and friends, conceal their true identities or don’t even have a legal identity! This usually bars them from testifying in a court of law without some special dispensation. If the testimony of a masked, or unidentified, paranormal is the sole evidence against a criminal, the case will most often be dismissed due to lack of admissible evidence.
However, provisions and dispensations do exist. Over the past ten years, special legal frameworks have been created in a variety of countries including the US that permit a registered paranormal in good legal standing whose identity is known to the government (such as a member of the Transnational Guard) to testify in court while protecting their secret identity, under the auspices of witness protection.
These sorts of rulings are regularly challenged and appealed, and are incredibly controversial. The ACLU, in particular, immediately takes umbrage with “mask cases” where a costumed super-hero is able to provide evidence against the accused, especially when they are the ones who apprehended the accused, without revealing to the accused or the defense who they actually are. The organization often comes to the legal defense of such people, even if their crimes are horrendous, because of the violation of civil liberties they feel such a system represents.