The Perilous journey into Kingmaker
Hierarchy of Law Enforcement
-If you live in town and break rules, you answer to the sheriff.
-If you commit a major crime like rape, major theft, murder, etc, you answer to the Lord Mayor.
-If you are a foreigner, traveler, or live outside a town or city, you answer to the local Lord.
-If you come before a Lord Mayor, you can appeal to the Lord of the region the town resides in, but only other nobles would do this. The reasons are two: commoners are more likely to be favored by their local ruler than a distant noble, and the regional lord wants to prevent this “waste of time”, so he will usually deal more harshly with the criminal than his Lord Mayor, who is the one he wants dealing with “little stuff” like this.
- A noble or foreign dignitary can theoretically request an audience with the ruling Duke over the Baron or Lord, but these are rarely granted except in unusual circumstances. It is considered a sign of weakness if a Lord or Baron allows a case to get to a Duke’s court, since it is assumed that he was unable to handle it himself in whatever fashion it required.
- If the dispute is between two rulers, regardless of their respective statures, either one can appeal to the King of Brevoy, or in the current case, the Regent. Neither Medvyed, Orlovsky, nor the Swordlords are likely to respect or honor a ruling made by the Regent however, since that would grant him the appearance of too much authority.
There is no judge, jury, or judicial system, or barristers to speak of. There is a hearing at which the accused has the right to be heard, held by either the sheriff, Lord Mayor, or local Lord. The ruler may call upon other witnesses, experts, or advisors for input into the situation, but only if the ruler chooses to do so.
- Sheriff. Handles drunk and disorderly, disputes, minor thefts, suspicious activity, fines. He will usually be in charge of a garrison of investigators, enforcers, and prisoner escorters. Depending on the laziness of the Lord Mayor, he may also handle more capital crimes.
- Captain of the Guards. Only in larger towns or cities, there is also a captain of the town or city guards. He usually answers directly to the Lord Mayor as well, but is only in charge of stopping violence or handling military situations that threaten the security of the settlement. He works in parallel with the sheriff, who is responsible for handling the aftermath. He has no judgment authority whatsoever. His men also backstop the sheriff for transporting major prisoners or doing big searches.
- Lord Mayor. Handles major crimes or those involving nobles that could have repercussions. Some are more involved and some less involved. Basically has the authority to be judge, jury, and executioner if need be. Typically handles major crimes, or ones involving children, nobles, or major offenses.
-Local Lord. Handles anything that gets appealed to him, but normally only those cases that affect his overall region or involve important personages, like nobles, wizards, priests, or foreign dignitaries. Once again judge, jury, and executioner. They are more likely to thrown people in the dungeons while they figure out a way to leverage this bargaining chit for gold, power, favors, or better trade agreements, etc, than they are to be concerned with meting out justice fairly. They often in fact, hang commoners who appeal to them, especially in cases where it is vs a noble or other major authority. This reduces the number of common appeals they receive to a manageable number. If you come before a lord and want a favorable outcome to your hearing, you should have bargaining power and something of value to them, otherwise you are more likely to end up in the dungeons.
Major offenses are torture and/or murder of a child or noble, treason, necromancy, or magical mind control and earn colorful, very painful deaths. Death sentences vary by Duchy:
Orlovsky – dropped from a great height by a wyvern
Medvyed – staked out and covered with blood and left to the wolves or the Brotherhood of the Silver Orb(lycanthropic druids from the Grozni Forest).
Garess – hung in cages from the city walls to slowly starve
Lebeda – torn in quarters by horses
Lobodka – crucified to the bow of a ship until you die.
Surtova – unusually novel and cruel devices like the Pear or the Brass Bull.
Serious offenses like the rape or murder of commoners are punishable either by hanging or or life sentence in a nasty place like mines, swamps, or quarry pits.
Theft, kidnapping, attempting to cheat a contract, blackmail, assault, and the like are usually punishable by maiming, imprisonment, enforced local work crews, humiliation in the town square, and/or heavy fines, depending on the severity and circumstances. Recreational beatings along the way are optional for all of these, depending on the lawfulness of the enforcing agents.
Anything not previously mentioned is considered a petty crime and usually just results in a beating and a fine.
Sentences vary drastically depending on the status of the accused:
If you are a foreigner or traveling dignitary who is well connected, you are most likely to have your possessions taken, pay large fines, and be ejected from the kingdom, at least temporarily.
If you are a foreigner who is no one special, you could end up either paying huge fines, or just disappearing into the dungeons or jails forever.
If you are a local noble typically redress and fines paid directly to the aggrieved party are due. This means that a noble who wrecks the local tavern in a barfight or who injures a town commoner pays the fine directly to the commoner. Successful Lord Mayors like to make this happen as often as possible, to maintain the loyalty of the commoners and discourage bored nobles from stirring up trouble. If a noble commits a major crime or is important enough, the hearing is moved to the local lord.
If you are not a local noble, chances are you will have to provide a major favor or pay a large fine. If you cannot personally pay the large fine, someone in your family will be expected to pay it or grant favors/concessions to the ruling lord. If you are extremely well connected, you are usually ejected from the region with no penalty or fine.
Those with money and standing are usually treated as minor nobility as far as the law is concerned. Wealthy merchants, longstanding key citizens and families, and military officers fall into this category.
Typically, commoners are at the mercy of anyone in judgment, and they know this. Most will be supplicating, begging, and very humble. Fair hearings usually result in some modicum of justice, though if it involves anyone important or noble, they get preferential treatment. Most commoners have no real money or power, so judging parties have nothing to lose in ruling against them.
In a dispute between equals of any level, you can expect a relatively fair hearing and judgment, since these are easy to mediate and help make the rulers look impartial. It is the only time most of them truly can be fair and just.
In a dispute between nobles and commoners, nobles nearly always win. In disputes between important citizens and a commoner, the commoners lose there too. Basically, if you are a commoner, you are screwed.
If you are a noble and you or your family have money or power, typically the most you will get is a slap on the wrist. Only in the face of severe financial or military consequences is this not the case.