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Interesting legal and moral question? Could you be charged with murder if you slayed a vampire?

With the current revival of vampire movies, programs, books, etc. I'm curious if one could be charged with first degree murder if they slew a vampire?


This is what is called a "hypothetical" question.

18 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    That is an interesting question. Let me see what I can come up with. To set up our hypothetical question let’s look at a fairly classic scenario from a little known vampire novel by Bram Stoker. In the novel, a Professor Vanhelsing and his cohorts track down a vampire through the streets of London, finally confronting him and killing him in his lair. They confront the creature several times prior to killing him and they gather about them the tools they will need to do the vampire in: wooden stakes, a sharp knife, and garlic.

    First let’s define “first degree murder.” In order for someone to be found guilty of first degree murder the government must prove that the person killed another person; (1)the person killed the other person with malice aforethought; and (2)the killing was premeditated. (1)To kill with malice aforethought means to kill either deliberately and intentionally or recklessly with extreme disregard for human life. (2)Premeditation means with planning or deliberation. The amount of time needed for premeditation of a killing depends on the person and the circumstances. It must be long enough, after forming the intent to kill, for the killer to have been fully conscious of the intent and to have considered the killing.

    So given that definition, it is looking good to charge our vampire hunters with murder. Vanhelsing and his followers clearly showed intent to kill the vampire and planned ahead how they would do so. But now let’s look at the legal definition of “death.”

    In the eyes of the law, death is not a continuing event but something that takes place at a precise moment in time. The courts will not wield authority concerning a death. The determination of whether an individual has died, and the way in which this is proved by the person's vital signs, is not a legal decision but rather a medical judgment. The opinion of qualified medical personnel will be taken into consideration by judges when a controversy exists as to whether an individual is still alive or has died. That will be the key to the case of the State vs. Vanhelsing in the murder of Vlad Dracula. Does a controversy exist as to whether the vampire is still alive or dead? I would think so.

    The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1980 formulated the Uniform Determination of Death Act. It states that: "An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem is dead. Note the “or”? The definition is one or the other, not both. Just because our vampire has full brain function does not protect him. The argument for the former (lack of circulatory and respiratory function) can still be used against him. Most all vampire fiction agrees that a vampire is still a dead corpse with no vital functions. There are several modern pieces that show their vampires with heartbeats and respiration, either continuously or for short periods after feeding, but taken as a whole body of work the vast majority shows that the vampires are just intelligent corpses without enough decency to stay in their graves. The defense would argue that the vampire meets the above medical definition and will bring in plenty of expert medical witnesses to support their allegation. The prosecution will bring in their own expert testimony to show that despite a lack of respiration or heartbeat, that the victim was still “alive” when he was brutally attacked by Vanhelsing and his cultists.

    Realistically, regardless of the outcome of State vs. Vanhelsing, the government will be forced to revise their laws to either establish a legal precedence or to close a loophole in the law. Given the predatory nature of the traditional vampire it is extremely likely that they will be declared a “threat to public safety” which sets up them being declared as deceased corpses for legal purposes. This not only protects society in general but it also allows for the transference of inherited estates. Imagine the effect on civil and probate law if a legal precedent is established that a vampire remains legally “living” (despite a lack of vital function) for an indefinite period of time.

    The short answer to your question is they could be charged but being convicted is not altogether certain under the existing laws. It will come down to which side has a better lawyer leading the case.

  • Interesting question. I realize that this is a hypothetical question, but seeing as the existence of such a being would also require supporting laws, etc., then you'd be forced to incorporate the application (or lack thereof) of those related laws.

    Since the question regards a legal charge, Vampires would have to be recognized as existing beings, otherwise the charge would not be contemplated. Therefore, there would be prior legal debate on whether or not Vampires are actually 'people' - seeing as they are medically dead - whether or not they deserve rights, etc., and laws would be passed accordingly. This would be the deciding factor - The real question seems to be, 'If Vampires existed, would society accept them as other people, deserving of human rights?'.

    So, simply put, if vampires were legally human beings, then your answer would be yes. Because then, under law, it would be a person killing another person. If it was decided that Vampires did not have any human rights, then no, it would be not be murder, because it would be viewed as a human killing a non-human being. However, the latter would open up an entirely different can of worms: You'd think that if it wasn't murder to slay a vampire, then it would likewise not be murder for a vampire to have slewn a human being, since they are not considered human themselves. If it were still decided to not consider Vampires as people with rights, then it would have to be further decided what to do if they were a threat; put them down like animals, throw them in jail as punishment for murder besides the fact that the mirrored situation would yield an entirely different outcome?

    You would also have to take into consideration that if it were a human who slew a vampire, that it may have been self-defense.

    If what you were seeking for your question was based on curiosity of opinion, then in my opinion, disregarding any hypothetical laws the situation would most likely require, then no. Not because I am not against murder - because I am, as I consider myself to be a person with good morals, and I am not heartless. Nor do I have any problem with the fictional character, I enjoy a good Vamp movie every now and then. However, in my opinion, and speaking strictly from knowledge of the fictional character as well as medical knowledge, I don't see how it could be considered murder seeing as the Vampire is medically dead anyhow, and 'murdering' it simply destroys whatever force is animating the deceased corpse. I myself wouldn't be the one doing the murdering unless it was in self-defense, because I believe that if such a thing would have ever happened for a force to animate a corpse, then there must be some meaningful explanation in Nature for that occurrence, revealed or not. However, I just don't see how it could medically or lawfully be seen as murder in the first place.

    Hope this helped to answer your question. :)

  • If vampires existed (which they do not), and you slew one in front of witnesses, you would be arrested for murder - BUT forensic pathology would find that the murder victim was ALREADY dead, and had been for a long time. They would not be able to say with any degree of validity that, pathologically, you had killed this person. If, according to most vampire fiction, the vampire had already exceeded the normal human lifespan he would have had otherwise, then the body would quickly decompose or even disintegrate entirely.

    The real truth is that vampires (and vampire hunters) are nothing more than a fantasy, and IF someone were to slay a "vampire", forensic pathology would quickly determine that the victim was nothing more than human - albeit a dead one, and the "vampire hunter" would be guilty of murder, but would probably be sent to a prison mental institution instead of general quarters.

  • 1 decade ago

    Good question. I'm not a lawyer but since the intent was there, I'd say yes to attempted murder. Attempting murder doesn't assume the person will actually die; it's just an attempt. So a person already being dead wouldn't remove the attempt of murder on a vampire.

    If the murder of the vampire were successful, I'm not sure the person could be charged with actual murder since the vampire was physically dead. The person didn't literally kill the vampire. I'm not sure what the charge would be, though.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    That IS an interesting question.

    Hmm, I'd have to say, no, you couldn't. Since vampires are Undead and have technically died, I guess it wouldn't matter if you re-killed them. They were already considered dead when they were changed, can't really charge someone for murdering somebody who was already dead.

    And even if you were, I suppose they would overlook the charges if you killed a certain sparkly "vampire".

  • 1 decade ago

    Actually in the very beginning you could be charged with murder but after they examine the corpse that you were suppose to have killed that will find out that body has been dead long be fore you killed it.... But you may also be charge with some form of misuse of a dead body now I doubt that you will spend more than two days in jail but you will have to answer a lot of question as to why you stole a dead body............... That is why most hunter Groups burn the body that a vampire has used to dust............

  • 1 decade ago

    If you slew it properly, there shouldn't be any body to examine.

    Vampire bodies should be burned or left out in the sun (which will burn them.)

    Otherwise, it's still undead and will be a vampire zombie (much harder to deal with.)

  • 1 decade ago

    They would already have been dead. You might be charged, but a simple search of death certificates might exhonerate you completely.

    Werewolves are a different matter though. If you killed a werewolf in wolf form and it changed back to a human in death, could you be charged with its murder?

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I would think you could get off on a self defense plea.

    Though if that creepy Edward guy came anywhere near me I would have to plead insanity when I bashed his gothtard face in with my leather mule.

  • ?
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Hypothetically no..they aren't considered human and besides the body would disintegrate anyhow according to myth.

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