Crime and Punishment:
In most respects the legal system in the Empire of Metamor is similar to what you might find in any modern Western democracy in the real world: the accused have rights to a swift and fair trial, legal representation, and protection from cruel or unusual punishments. Authors may assume that due process in MK2K is essentially the same as what we see in our own Western society.
There are a few aspects of the Imperial legal code and the criminal justice system that deserve particular mention.
If Majestrix Kyia has a unifying vision -- a reason for being -- it is to protect and shepherd the mortal races and ensure the preservation of their well-being and personal dignity. Kyia has watched the humans and other races being subjugated and manipulated by false deities and corrupt churches for thousands of years, so protecting the rights of mortals to independence and self-determination is a central concern for her.
Kyia recognizes that the immense power with which she has been entrusted could be far, far too easily abused. The desire to teach good moral character to the mortal races could easily result in an oppressive, totalitarian regime in which mortals would not be free to be themselves. In addition, there are aspects of the mortal existence that an immortal being like Kyia is simply unable to contemplate; as such, she recognizes that her own understanding of morality (as it applies to mortals) may be limited, and thus she may not be qualified to provide moral teaching to her subjects.
As a result of these concerns, Kyia's criminal legal code focuses chiefly on those activities that directly cause harm to one's fellow beings, whether endangering life, liberty or property. Murder, assault, rape, theft, and other offenses by one person against another are treated as seriously under Imperial law as they are in our own Western legal code. In moral grey areas, Kyia's laws are generally libertarian; she would rather regulate a potentially harmful activity, to keep it within relatively safe bounds, than to outlaw it entirely.
Age of Majority
Citizens of the Empire are considered adults at age 17. Beginning at this age, citizens may vote in elections, marry without parental consent, work a full-time job, and participate in most other aspects of adult life.
Certain privileges, however, are restricted until the person reaches age 19. Between 17 and 19, citizens may not gamble or purchase alcohol or recreational drugs (though they may legally drink or use legal drugs within the confines of a private residence).
Pedomorphs carry ID cards that prove that they are of legal age, in spite of their appearance. The cards contain a magnetic strip that encodes the data listed on the front of the card, as well as a holographic illusion-charm that displays a three dimensional image of the owner changing back and forth between forms. These are difficult enough to forge that pedomorphs are not generally required to demonstrate their shapeshifting ability before being served.
Drugs & Alcohol
In MK2K, recreational drugs are defined as any substance that is inhaled, ingested, or otherwise absorbed into the body that alters the person's perceptions or psychology in a way that can potentially threaten the person's ability to function properly in civilized society. This includes both mundane biochemical drugs and magical or alchemical substances.
The Bureau for Regulation of Controlled Substances and the Bureau of Magic Regulation keep track of the sales of mundane and magical drugs, respectively, dividing them into different restriction classes and setting limits on the quantities that can be sold to each user within a given time span. Tthe BRCS is part of the Ministry of Health and the BMR is in the Ministry of Justice, but both are generally given wide operational latitude by their superiors and tend to behave as distinct law enforcement agencies within the Imperial government. Often there is some friction and competition between the agencies when a new drug hits the streets, until it can be determined whether or not the drug is magical in nature.
Drug regulation falls into a number of levels of enforcement:
Class A: Prohibited. Drugs are only banned outright for recreational use if they are considered highly physically addictive and/or have destructive physiological effects at typical usage doses. Cocaine, heroin, and other powerful and destructive drugs fall into this category. The Narcotics sections of the MCPD detective squads are primarily concerned with interdicting these drugs.
Class B: Ambient Effects - Private Use Only. Drugs that have harmful effects on those surrounding the user are banned from public places, including restaurants and office buildings. The private citizen may use these drugs in his or her private residence, or in the private residence of an individual who gives consent to their use. These include drugs that are burned (tobacco, cannabis, etc.) and alchemical substances that produce magical or psionic effects upon those surrounding the user (such as drugs that allow the individual to read or influence the minds of others).
Class C: Regulated. These substances may be enjoyed in certain types of public spaces. Businesses may allow (or prohibit) their use on their premises and stores, restaurants, clubs and parlors may sell them, if properly licensed. Individuals who use enough drugs at a given sitting to significantly impair their perceptions or judgment are legally required to refrain from operation of swoops, skimmers, and heavy equipment, and use of these drugs is prohibited while operating these devices. Alcohol, smokeless cannabis, and various non-addictive or minimally-addictive psychotropic drugs fall into this category. (Smokeless tobacco is also traditionally classified here, though there are some within the BRCS that are fighting hard to have it moved to a higher classification because of its carcinogenic properties and highly addictive nature.)
Class D: Unregulated. Caffeine and other mild stimulants that do not significantly impair perception and judgment are not regulated by law.
Gambling is legal in Metamor City and most other parts of the Empire, though individual municipalities may choose to ban it. Private gambling within residences and office betting pools is legal and unregulated, though businesses may restrict their operation on their premises. Commercial gambling may only take place within licensed casinos, which must provide documentation to the Imperial Ministry of Commerce to prove that the games are fairly conducted and that payout ratios meet a certain minimum standard.
Most of the big casinos in Metamor City are operated by Talia's vampire syndicate, though many of them operate under different names and appear, to the average citizen, to be competing businesses.
Kyia's treatment of the business of selling sexual services is one of the most dramatic instances of regulation, rather than prohibition, being used successfully to improve the safety of a practice that is ethically borderline. In the early 1700s, at the urging of Nocturna's longtime consort Malger Sutt (aka Dream Serpent), Kyia tasked him with the creation of the Sensualist Guild, a government-authorized organization responsible for licensing, training, and representing the interests of professional sex workers. With the political power of the guild behind them, sex workers were able to throw off the oppression of pimps and slavers, securing rights to fair treatment and the opportunities to learn additional professional skills that would ensure job security even after they were no longer considered attractive candidates for sex work.
Metamor culture draws a distinction between Sensualists -- who are licensed,
well-educated, and regularly screened for health problems by doctors and healers
-- and common prostitutes, who are unlicensed and conduct their business illegally.
Such individuals are usually desperate, unhappy and carrying one or more sexually
transmitted diseases, and are frequently being exploited by pimps and crime
lords. Often they are forced to do their unpleasant work because their handlers
have evidence to implicate them in some other crime, or because they depend
on their handlers to supply them with illicit drugs. (The Sensualist Guild has
a zero-tolerance policy on Class A and B drugs, and they strictly monitor Class
C usage for signs of abuse.) The MCPD is generally sympathetic towards these
poor women and androgynes (and, occasionally, men), and tries to get them into
recovery programs instead of putting them in prison.
Sensualist licenses are required for all paid sex work that involves direct person-to-person contact, even between paid actors; thus, sex parlors and pornographic film studios must be Guild-licensed, but licensing is not needed to participate in "virtual" sex on WorldNet domains.
Conservative religious groups like the Ecclesia are generally disapproving of Sensualists, whom they see as being involved in an inherently sinful profession; however, most of them grudgingly admit that it's better to have sex workers well-protected by the law than to outlaw the practice and allow it to carry on illicitly under dangerous and exploitative conditions. In any case, very few Metamorians would ever use the terms "prostitute" or "whore" to refer to a Sensualist, as even those who disapprove of the profession are able to tell the difference.
Abortion & Birth Control
The ability to magically sense and quantify the presence of the human soul -- or, at least, a life-aspected mana field present in living sentients that is demonstrably unique and characteristic to each individual -- has given science and medicine a new tool for determining whether or not a creature is truly a sentient being. The practice of terminating pregnancy had always been looked on with ill regard in most civilized societies -- both the Lothanasi and the Follower faiths condemned the practice since their earliest days. While it was not illegal for a woman to end the life of her fetus, it was widely regarded as barbaric and most reputable doctors and healers refused to perform the procedure. When it was discovered, in the late 19th century, that it was in fact possible to observe the growth and development of the soul in unborn humans -- and that this soul was visibly distinct from that of the mother as little as four weeks after conception -- it gave those who opposed the practice of abortion the weight of evidence they needed to ban it. Today,abortion is only legal in the Empire during the first four weeks following conception; thereafter, terminating the pregnancy is legally considered murder. This is one instance in which Kyia's drive to preserve life outweighs her desire to preserve freedom of personal choice.
Fortunately, methods of birth control are available in the Empire that are safe, inexpensive, and highly effective. Anti-conception charms are available in a wide variety of forms, but the most popular are the simple wooden amulets that can be prepared by any competent alchemist or hedge-wizard. These create a magical abjuration field around the woman's body that kills foreign organisms (including sperm) that enter the woman's body after the amulet is put on. The amulets are often attuned to a sperm sample during the creation process, which makes them more effective in killing the tiny intruders. Despite some urban legends to the contrary, the abjuration field produced by the amulet is never strong enough to effect any parts of another person's body that may enter the woman's body while it is worn. It does, however, serve as a very effective barrier against most types of infections, although repeated exposure to contagion will cause the charm to lose its power sooner than it would otherwise. A typical anti-conception charm, made by a rural healer or hedge-wizard, costs only a few marks, and might last for a month if well cared for; the more professionally made charms sold in magic shops like Artax's incorporate more expensive components, cost between fifty and a hundred marks, and can last for a year or more. (It should be noted that males should avoid putting on such a charm made by Artax, as it is likely to carry a powerful secondary enchantment to ensure that anyone wearing the charm will actually have need of it...)
Standard anti-conception charms are not strong enough to block the sperm of an incubus, which are extremely hardy and can survive in the uterus and Fallopian tubes for up to a month (thereby virtually guaranteeing conception). Any woman planning to engage in sexual activity with incubi will need a special variant of the charm, with a secondary enchantment designed to counter the daedra's natural spell resistance. This is a much more difficult spell, and the charms that incorporate it often sell for at least five hundred marks on the open market. Fortunately, these charms are necessarily of exceedingly great quality, incorporating a tiny bit of mithril as the core of the amulet; they will last for ten years or more. Of course, few women who are seduced by an incubus realize their lover's true nature until many years later, when their son or daughter becomes an incubus or succubus upon reaching puberty; thus, many women who might have had use for these expensive amulets never buy them.
Death Penalty & Personality Execution
Kyia has never favored the death penalty, and historically has permitted its use only in circumstances where an individual was deemed so dangerous that the Empire could take absolutely no chance of his or her escape. Typically, this meant that it was reserved for mass murderers and particularly dangerous traitors, who have been blessedly rare in Imperial history.
Metamor City prosecutors do not have the authority to seek the death penalty in any criminal trial; only in the gravest of Imperial-level crimes will it even be considered.
It should be noted that these restrictions apply only to mortal sentients -- humans, Elves, lutins, and the various sorts of half-humans or mostly-humans present in MK2K. Celestials, daedra, vampires, and other supernatural beings are not extended all of the protections given to full humans. These beings can be killed if they step outside the bounds of acceptable behavior; usually, it's the Lothanasi who do this dirty work.
Common sentences given in place of the death penalty include life imprisonment and assignment to work camps in the high Northlands and other unpleasant regions of the world. Some have proposed the use of permanent magical personality alteration as a "humane" alternative to the death penalty; but this essentially destroys the person who committed the crime just as thoroughly if the person had been executed. Experimental personality executions were conducted in the Empire during the mid-1800s, and the practice was used against war criminals by some of the victor nations following the last world war. In Metamor, however, it faced strong opposition from both major Follower denominations, who argued that erasing the person's memory of his sin made it impossible for him to repent. The procedure was outlawed, and no criminal has been subjected to personality execution since 1906.