True Blood

The fourth season of True Blood started up a few weeks ago, so it seems a fitting time to discuss the various legal implications of that setting. The series is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris, but we’re going to focus on the TV show because neither of us have actually read the novels (yet!).  There’s also a comic book series.

For those who don’t know, the premise of True Blood and the novels upon which it is based is that vampires, along with various other supernatural beings like dryads, werewolves, fairies, etc., are real and have been around forever. These vampires are a lot more like the good old bloody vampires we find in Dracula than the sparkly, limp-wristed pretty-boys or hideous, predatory monsters of recent fiction. They’re essentially dead humans animated by magic. They’re immortal, possessed of superhuman abilities—strength, speed, flight, a form of hypnosis—which increase as they age. They’re immune to most diseases and can heal rapidly, but they burn in sunlight and are poisoned and weakened by silver. And their blood acts as a powerful, unpredictable, and highly addictive drug as well as supernatural healing agent when consumed by normal humans. They’ve been living in a sort of shadow society for centuries, always on the borders and dark places of whatever culture they happen to occupy.

The conceit which starts the action of the series is that in the late 1990s, scientists in Japan finally figured out how to synthesize real human blood in the laboratory. Exactly how this is done is not made clear, and thus far isn’t important. What is important is that for the first time, vampires can exist without feeding on the blood of living humans. A faction within the vampire community took the opportunity to make vampires known to the world, ending the masquerade and becoming public members of human society. “Coming out of the coffin,” as it were; the series contain fairly obvious civil rights metaphors, particularly gay rights.

Anyway, as one might imagine, this leads to a right nasty bunch of legal snarls. A lot of these we’ve already talked about in other contexts, which will be helpful, but some of the issues are new. This may well turn into a series of posts, and we may start doing analysis of episodes as they air, as we’re doing with Torchwood: Miracle Day.

I. Immortality

This would be the obvious one. Immortality was one of the first things we discussed, but that was mostly in the context of being immortal while maintaining the masquerade, i.e. not letting anyone know that you’re immortal. So the vampire community would have needed to deal with those issues before the start of the series, but not anymore. Being immortal is not illegal as such. Indeed, making it illegal might well be unconstitutional. In Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962) the Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional to punish someone for being possessed of a certain biological condition, in this case addiction to narcotics. The Court reasoned that while using illegal narcotics might well be illegal, being addicted to them could not be, because that could be involuntary. Similarly, being made into a vampire is frequently an involuntary transaction (and apparently incurable), so punishing people for being vampires would seem to be problematic. Of course, there’s also the whole issue of whether or not vampires count as people, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

This particular implementation of immortality has some weird results. For example, Bill Compton winds up reacquiring the house his family had owned in the 1860s. It had been abandoned when he died, which is plausible given the setting in rural Louisiana, and when he reappeared to claim title, there wasn’t anyone to dispute his claim. We discussed what might have happened if there had been owners in the mean time back in December, and that analysis seems to work here.

II. Vampire Rights

A big question in the series has to do with the issue of vampire rights. By the time the show starts, it seems to be pretty much settled that vampires can own property, but the issue of humans marrying vampires has caused a fair amount of controversy. Truth be told, this seems to be a rather transparent and clumsy attempt to force the situation into an analogy for gay rights, because the issues actually are fairly different. First of all, the reason that people seem to be objecting to human/vampire marriage is that vampires are dead, and thus not really people. Of course, if that’s the case—and they are dead, to be sure—why can they own property? We talked about the issue of non-human intelligences starting here, and the real question here is not why vampires cannot marry, but why they can own property. If vampires are not people, or at best are ex-people, they shouldn’t have any rights at all. But if they are sufficiently human to own property, they should be sufficiently human to do anything else that a human can legally do. So there is indeed a line to be drawn here, but the place that it’s drawn doesn’t really make any sense. The issue doesn’t even really implicate gay marriage, as there are plenty of vampires who would just as soon enter into heterosexual relationships with humans and even with each other, so there’s no inherent change to the traditional definitions of marriage in view. At the beginning of season four we’re finally starting to see what looks like grassroots, community opposition to vampire-owned businesses, but that mostly seems to be based on the immorality or even amorality of vampire stereotypes (and let’s be honest, most of the vampires we’ve seen, even the nice ones, are distinctly unpleasant people) than on the fact that they’re dead and thus arguably not human.

In all fairness though, should vampires of this sort suddenly announce themselves to the world… it’s not implausible that the situation would wind up being just as irrational as the one in the stories. The marriage issue seems forced, but there would likely be a ton of conflicting and inconsistent attempts to challenge their right to become part of society premised on the fact that they’re not really human, or at least sufficiently different from baseline humans to justify treating them differently. But unless the courts pretty consistently sided against vampire rights, it would only seem to take a couple of decisions to establish that their rights are co-extensive with normal humans’.

IV. “Making,” Murder, and the Constitution

There’s one more sort of premise-level issue we’re going to look at before moving on. The question is whether turning someone into a vampire counts as murder. “Dying” is definitely part of the process: the vampire basically needs to drain them dry, have them drink the vampire’s blood, then spend the night with them underground, though exactly how this works hasn’t been shown on screen. And the result is a corpse. Vampires make no bones about the fact that they’re dead: they can’t eat, drink anything but blood, and none of their organs really seem to work. They are, for all intents and purposes, magically animated corpses. But still corpses.

So could a vampire who turns a human into a vampire be charged with murder? That’s going to depend on the means by which the victim was killed. Murder is the deliberate unlawful killing of another. If the vampire hunted the victim down, fed on him, killed him, and then turned him into a vampire, then definitely. But the crime of murder attaches with the deliberate killing, not the conversion. So if, for example, a vampire happened on a car accident, and plucked a person who would have otherwise been DOA from the wreckage and turned them into a vampire, that wouldn’t be murder. It might be assault, as if the person didn’t want to be turned into a vampire it would constitute an unwanted touching, but under the current state of the law, the conversion process alone does not seem to count as a crime in and of itself. Of course, there’s nothing to stop legislatures from passing statutes to make it illegal, and the stories seem to suggest that there would be significant public support for that kind of thing.

Then the question becomes whether that law would be constitutional. Assuming for the moment that vampires have rights like regular people, is it constitutional to pass a law which amounts to forbidding them to procreate? Such would almost certainly be unconstitutional if applied to humans as an impermissible burden on the right to privacy as currently formulated. But the vampires don’t really procreate. They take people that already exist and change them, often against the person’s will. At the very least, it would certainly be constitutional to forbid involuntary conversion. But it would arguably be a burden on the human in the transaction to forbid voluntary conversion. Of course, if vampires don’t have rights, then the whole thing is probably fair game.

III. Conclusion

Those are just some of the baseline legal issues in the premise of the series. We’ll take a look at some specific issues in later posts.

41 Responses to True Blood

  1. It occurs to me that the vampire “making” issue can be resolved through contract (presuming vampire personhood), in that if a record of an agreement to become a vampire is extant, the vampire maker should be free and clear. On the other hand, if the made vampire complains, then you have a case for assault, possibly a new kind of assault, or possibly covered under law against deliberate infection

    • I don’t think it’s that clear. If the “making” process involves actually killing someone, that brings us into the area of homicide law, which a person can’t contract around. A contract for illegal activity is unenforceable. So I agree with the original post’s conclusion that this is a totally unclear area, depending on whether one construes the “making” process as homicide or procreation. I agree that voluntary transformation into a vampire *should* be allowable, but a court would have to play fast and loose with homicide law to come to that result.

      • Habeas Corpus – Show Me the Body. If the supposedly dead person is walking around, even complete organ failure is not death. There are lots of people who have died and walk around, after resuscitation. A vampire is not alive in many senses, but they aren’t dead (thus undead).

        The rights of the undead are pretty unclear, yes, but new law patterned on law, such as contract, should apply.

    • Ryan Davidson

      Scratch is right. First, it is impossible to consent to serious bodily injury or death. Second, contracts which have an illegal transaction as their consideration are completely unenforceable, e.g. you can’t sue some in contract for failing to come through on a contract killing (or at least you can’t win). Contract does not really help here.

      This is actually something that should have been clearer in the initial post: for consensual “making” to work, legally, the person would probably have to commit suicide so the vampire is in the clear about the killing part. Of course, we have no idea whether or not that would even work.

      • Ken Arromdee

        It’s possible to consent to serious bodily injury if it’s surgery and the ultimate outcome of the surgery is that you are better than before even if the first step in the surgery is injuring you.

  2. Martin Phipps

    I think your analysis was wrong. I think the show is making an analogy with the civil rights movement. Consider: vampires can own property. Well freed slaves could own property, right? The right to claim ownership of your own home is a basic right. But they couldn’t marry white women, at least not in most states. Indeed, you night want to check out this wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-miscegenation_laws_in_the_United_States to see if there’s any glaring mistakes. It seems as though the entire southern United States had state laws against miscegenation. Basically the problem was that parents didn’t want their sons or daughters marrying non-whites, not even when they were old enough to make the decision themselves. It is plausible that there would be enough prejudice against vampires that people wouldn’t want their daughter to marry one. I mean, if none of the organs work then they aren’t going to produce grandchildren are they? Of course, if none of the organs work then it would also be easy to get an annulment because the couple would almost certainly have not consummated the marriage.

    The gay marriage analogy doesn’t work because I don’t think vampires were being forbidden to marry each other. Nor would black people have been forbidden from marrying black people under anti-miscegenation laws. It’s like the opposite of the gay marriage issue because gay people can certainly legally enter into straight marriages. I’m not even sure if a woman could file for divorce saying her husband is gay without showing that he had actually had a gay lover while they were married. I mean, David Bowie and Iman look happy, don’t they? So while having a gay husband would seem to be something that would make marriage difficult it is not necessarily something that couldn’t be worked out.

    But here’s a tricky issue. What if a doctor were a vampire? Suppose your son or daughter were on life support and your doctor were able to revive him or her by turning them? How hard would it be for the medical community to accept turning a terminally ill patient as a valid medical procedure. Perhaps we will have, in place of organ donor cards, cards stating our willingness to be turned should we die in a fatal car accident. Given the alternative (dying and not coming back) I think most people would prefer to be turned. Oh but I suppose that would be unless you were absolutely sure you were going to go to Heaven in which case you might want to sue. I think in this day and age you’d have to somehow prove you were going to go to Heaven and I don’t think it is a given anymore. (If it ever was given the separation of church and state.) Mind you, a vampire can still die, right? So presumably if you were involuntarily turned then you would still be going to Heaven. That’s assuming Heaven is fair and just. So it could be argued that the turning process meant that rapture was not denied but simply delayed. A successful lawsuit would then have to prove that vampires were damned from going to Heaven when they died.

    • Ryan Davidson

      I know they’re trying to make an analogy with the civil rights movement. I don’t think it’s a good analogy, for two reasons.

      First, there is an ontological difference between humans and vampires. Demonstrably so. One starts out as a human, and if nature runs its course, one will continue as a human until one dies, and that’s the end of it. Something has to happen to make you a vampire. Vampires even have different properties and abilities from normal humans, something that racists have long been at pains to try to prove about racial minorities with no real success. This is categorically different than the issue of race, which is a feature of birth, something that happens to everyone. One might argue that this difference ought to have no legal significance, but the fact is that there is a difference, and the argument would need to happen. This, not marriage, is where the real fight would be.

      Second, most of the civil rights you’re talking about had been well established decades before vampires came out of the coffin. As a result, the recognition that they have any rights would basically entitle them to all of the rights and responsibilities of normal humans. So again, to the extent that there is going to be a legal challenge to vampire rights, it’s not going to be about marriage, it’s going to be about their legal status as persons. Once they win that, they’re basically set.

    • Kathryn Scannell

      Martin:
      > I’m not even sure if a woman could file for divorce saying her husband is gay without showing that he had actually had a gay lover while they were married.
      —-
      Actually in NH it isn’t considered adultery, even if you can prove the sex happened while they were married. There was a 2003 ruling that sets precedent: http://www.glapn.org/sodomylaws/usa/new_hampshire/nhnews001.htm
      I suspect that this will be revisited sooner or later now the same sex marriage is legal in NH, but I haven’t heard of it happening yet.

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  4. Unwanted touching. That’s what happened to me flying out of El Paso last Sunday. But that’s another story.

  5. Kathryn Scannell

    On the topic of vampire conversions, you guys might enjoy “The Haunted Earth” by Dean Koontz (Lancer, 1973). I don’t think it’s been reissued since, but there are used copies out there. It opens with a very funny scene involving a PI spying on a woman in a hotel room with a vampire. She wants to become one, and her husband has hired the PI to prevent it if possible. The vampire is trying to read her a set of legal disclosures about the process which he’s required to make under laws enacted after he vampires and other supernatural entities came out, while the woman says “Yes, yes, whatever. Just bite my neck.” Eventually the vampire gives up on the legal warnings, starts to bite her neck without finishing, and our hero has grounds to interrupt.

    • Thank you! Sounds like a fun book, I’ll definitely have to look for it tomorrow. Conveniently Las Cruces (NM) has an excellent used book store, Coas, where I stand a good chance of finding it. It’s ain’t Powell’s in Portland, but it’s very good.

  6. I am not convinced that killing someone to then turn them into a vampire is murder.

    Assume for the sake of argument that vampires are considered living people. If it is possible for a dead person to be turned into a vampire, then the dead person *shouldn’t be considered dead*. After all, it is possible to revive him (by turning him into a vampire). By definition, if someone is dead, they can’t be revived. Someone who was killed to be turned into a vampire is not dead, he’s “severely injured to the point where the only thing that will keep him from dying is being turned into a vampire”. Presumably there is a state where he can no longer become a vampire (unless you can dig up 100 year old corpses and turn them); at that state he could then be considered dead. (Note that this still holds true if you define death as permanent cessation of brain activity. If someone’s brain can be restarted–by turning him into a vampire–then it hasn’t permanently stopped.)

    That also applies to the issue of consenting to be turned into a vampire. You’re not consenting to be “killed”, you’re consenting tothe equivalent of surgery where you are injured, and in a vulnerable state (near-death state for vampire turning, cut open on the operating table for surgery) until the procedure is done, but once the procedure is done you’re fine.

    • Ryan Davidson

      But that’s just the thing: it’s very clear from the series that vampires are not alive. They are dead and will gladly tell you as much. So your assumption is invalid.

      The vampires’ bodies, in this series anyway, have absolutely no biological activity. Hook them up to telemetry in a hospital and they’d run a flatline on both cardiac and brain monitors. Being converted into a vampire is not moving into some different kind of life, it’s magically being animated despite being dead. So neither of your arguments really works. Vampires are not people who were temporarily “dead” and were revived, and their brains have permanently stopped. Biologically speaking, there is absolutely no difference between a vampire and a corpse. What differences do exist are the result of magic.

      Now maybe you want to redefine what “life” and “death” mean. But, as I’ve been saying the whole time, this really is where the fight would happen. It’s the central question of vampire rights.

      • Ken Arromdee

        Vampires don’t claim they should be considered *legally* dead. Just because “dead” is the everyday word used for them doesn’t mean that they must be considered dead for legal purposes.

      • The vampires on the series don’t admit they’re dead…they say they are suffering from a virus. That’s the story they told so they could came out of the coffin. Only between themselves they say the dead thing out loud.
        I even remember a scene where Sookie finds out Bill was actually dead and she was a little scared and thinking things like ‘oh God, it’s no going back now…Bill is a corpse, I’m dating a dead man’. (granted, I don’t remember if this scene is from True Blood or Charlaine Harris’s book)
        So, if they present to the world as alive people suffering a virus attack, they should be seen as alive human beings. If they’ll sustain the façade I don’t know though.

    • Melanie Koleini

      I haven’t seen the series, but in the books a person must start the conversion process before they are truly dead. People have been turned after they have been declared dead but, according to the vampires that turned them, there was still a spark of life present. Also, in the 2 cases of near-death conversions in the books, there were significant problems.

      In the first case, Bubba was turned after he arrived at the morgue, (almost) dead of a drug overdose. Bubba had significant brain damage and has only survived because Bill Compton and other vampires have acted as caretakers, keeping him out of trouble.

      In the second case I remember, the vampire couldn’t control his violent outbursts and became a mass murder. (Very bad for public relations.)

  7. Jamas Enright

    Hello,
    I’m wondering if someone can clarify something for me that would seem to be central to this. (I haven’t watched the show, couldn’t get through the pilot.) When someone is converted into a vampire… are they still the same person? To go to the other obvious vampire turning, Buffy, we have that a demon enters the person’s body, their soul is gone, the demon might be able to access the memories, but they are not the same entity. How does it work in True Blood? (‘cos if they aren’t, then they aren’t converted, but their body used for other purposes.)

    • Ryan Davidson

      Metaphysically, that’s an interesting question. The books may go into what happens to the person’s soul, but the TV series doesn’t really. But a person converted to being a vampire does have all of that person’s memories and maintains significant aspects of their previous personality. They’ll be more aggressive, but that’s largely a factor of the magnification of their appetites and addition of new ones.

      But the legal system probably isn’t going to care. If we’re going to treat vampires as people at all, they’re going to be the same people they were before they died.

    • Mad props for referencing Buffy, by the way. True Blood is fine and all, but Buffy deserves a place of honor in geekdom forevermore as the closest thing I have to an organized religion.
      (Note– on Buffy vampires were also just demon-animated corpses. They also did not breathe. The only truly key difference was that on Buffy we do know for certain you can perform brain surgery on vampires, and we do know for certain that some sort of demon has possessed the corpse rather than the corpse merely being animated by magic)

    • The books, at least the first few, do not examine this question closely but it’s definitely not a Buffyverse situation. Vampires have souls and they appear to be the ones they were issued at birth.

      The vampires of True Blood to me seem to be very similar to those of the White Wolf “World of Darkness” universe, specifically the Kindred of the “Vampire: The Masquerade” series. Or, if you prefer, the vampires of the “Underworld” movie series. (Which got sued by WWG for copyright infringement of the WoD.) Basically, if you played a WoD game in a small Louisiana bayou town, you’d get “True Blood,” only sans Masquerade. It is interesting to note that the other supernaturals (weres, fairies, etc) ARE still in hiding in the True Blood universe and so far as I know don’t have any plans to “come out.”

      Incidentally, those who like the True Blood universe and/or the Southern Vampire novels would do well to read Harris’s Harper Connelly Mysteries, which frankly I think are even better. Their protagonist is a young woman who, after being struck by lightning, can receive certain kinds of information from the bodies of the dead. There are some interesting legal questions provided therein, I hint to our gracious host. Hint, hint. :)

      • Melanie Koleini

        Unfortunately, at present I think the Harper Connelly Mysteries are only in novel form.
        The last book (Grave Secret) raises a ton of issues. (Possible spoilers follow)

        Is a doctor legally obligated to report a death or a birth where he is the only medical person present?
        What laws are you breaking if your baby dies of natural causes and, instead of reporting it, you substitute another baby?
        Is it actually kidnapping to take home a baby that isn’t yours if the baby’s biological father gave the baby to you?
        Is an adoption legal if you get the wrong person’s baby?
        Can you marry a stepsibling?
        Is it legal for a private citizen to follow someone around because he thinks the person is a murder?
        If the same private citizen then breaks into a storage locker to find the dead body, what laws are being broken and can the evidence be used against the murder?
        Would the police let you just leave the scene after you tell them you just heard a man confess to murder?

  8. Duck test: if it looks and acts like a living person, it is a living person. Memory is in place; decision are made; the body must feed; the creature can procreate, albeit in a nonstandard way. Vampires are not dead.

    • Ryan Davidson

      Unfortunately, most states have passed some version of the Uniform Determination of Death Act which means that vampires, as a matter of law, are dead. The act says that anyone who has suffered “irreversible cessation” of either circulatory and respiratory or brain functions is dead.

      Vampires have none of these. They are, therefore, dead.

      The fact that they’re walking around is an inconvenient detail the law does not currently contemplate. Because the definition is a matter of statute, it may well take legislative action, not a court decision, to figure out what to do with that detail.

      Besides, the way the stories are written, vampires never claim that they don’t count as dead. They claim that being dead shouldn’t matter.

      • Melanie Koleini

        Unless the TV show is different from the books, I think you may be miss-applying the uniform code of determination of death.

        At least in the books, Vampires do have blood circulation (at least a lot of the time). If you cut them they bleed (a lot). They can make their hearts beet if they want to. They stop their hearts when they are injured. If you injury them they heal. If a vampire cuts his hair, it grows back to the same length it was when he died. They don’t have to breathe but they can if they want to (at least after dark). I think I could make an argument that being able to carry on a coherent conversation is evidence of brain function even if the EEG says otherwise.

        All of this says to me that vampires don’t meet the ‘irreversible’ part of the code.

  9. Sorry, but I think Ryan’s analysis is completely accurate and you guys are just being sore losers. Just give up the ghost and admit that vampires are legally dead, regardless of the fact we wish they weren’t. In real life at this point of a legal roadblock you would be forced to contact your legislature and request a new law changing the definition of “death.”

    • If the law says no EEG means death, and someone with no EEG is clearly able to carry on a conversation, no court is going to say that they are dead. At a minimum that definition of “death” would be unconstitutional as applied, since it takes away a person’s rights without due process.

      • Scratch Martin

        You’re arguing for common sense. Do you have any idea what little place that has in the law? In any event, you say “no court is going to say…” so authoritatively when we should all have learned by now that court decisions are capricious and arbitrary, difficult to predict. Secondly, your last sentence presumes that vampires would count as a “person” enough to qualify for 14th Amendment protection in the first place. This logic is circular, because the entire point of the original post was to question whether that would happen in the first place. Only *after* we establish that vampires count as humans can you make a Due Process Argument. And that is setting aside the problem that strictly interpreting the statute, reading the four corners of the page and not bringing in any outside knowledge, vampires *are* legally dead. Period. All other whining to the contrary is wishful thinking. But that’s not a compelling argument. It’s just wishing. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

      • Ken Arromdee

        By that reasoning, the legislature could make a law defining all 80 year olds to be dead, and there would be no due process argument for the same reason you claim there is none for vampires: you have to invalidate the law first before you could make a due process claim.

  10. Martin Phipps

    Imagine a world with ghosts, zombies and vampires.

    Are ghosts dead? The mind works but the the body is rotting in a grave somewhere. They’re dead.

    Are zombies dead? The body is moving but the mind is gone. They’re dead.

    Are vampires dead? The mind works, the body works but the heart doesn’t have to beat. Are they dead? I don’t think so. Mind and body are still there even if the body isn’t fully functional. It would be like saying I was dead because I was missing a foot.

    Anyway, here would be an interesting case: a ghost tries to claim ownership of the property he owned when he died but then the ghost’s body is reanimated as a zombie and a lawyer acting on the zombie’s behalf claims that the zombie has a better claim. Who wins? ;)

  11. Besides the dead/undead issue, “True Blood” raises a different set of issues when you think about it. The vast majority of vampires that existed before the invention of the blood substitute have killed large numbers of humans. True, different way of obtaining blood from assault and murder existed, but most vampires appear to have seen it as a matter of comfort and convenience, not ethics.

    I.e. glamour a person and take a bit of blood, or drain one and hide the corpse becomes a question of how hungry they are and how much effort they are willing to expend.

    If vampires become legally people, you have a number of ancient mass killers who retroactivly become people, legally. Are they responsible for their previous actions?

    Many of which would be too old for prosecution, but some places don’t have a statute of limitations on murder.

    • Scratch Martin

      Yes, I too am curious about how a court would go about prosecuting a vampire for “glamouring” someone. It’s definitely a kind of coercion, it definitely would render a person incapable of consenting to sex, so I imagine prosecutors would probably use it as a basis for a sexual assault charge of some kind. But if the vampire does not use the glamour to make a pliant victim for sex, I’m not sure exactly which crime the vampire would have committed. Without physical contact battery seems wrong. Hmm…

      • It *is* battery. (Or assault in the newfangled sense.) The vampire whammy involves directly manipulating my neurons by magic. Would you dispute an assertion that shooting my head with microwaves is battery? No direct physical contact there either. Same thing, just magic-ions instead of photons.

    • Basically, this gets glossed over. In general terms, there is no immunity claimed or given for anything vampires did prior to the invention of True Blood. (Or after, for that matter.) They dance around the question when asked, claiming (accurately) necessity as a moral justification, and of course some vampires actually killed people but not ME, I just took a little, enough to survive, and if you think different, prove it. Given the many and varied *current* problems vampires are causing, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in trying to make historical crimes stick to them.

  12. Oy, the issues raised in these comments are given me a headache. Where are Wolff & Byrd when you need them?

  13. It seems to me the best justification for not allowing humans and vampires to marry, given the stated perameters, is probably “health” grounds. There are several states that require blood tests before marriage, for “public health” reasons. I’m not sure if getting a positive result for one of the tested diseases results in denial of getting the marriage certificate, but I could see a legislature requiring (say) that one must have an EEG test (or something) that a vampire would fail. Admittedly that would require changing the law to discriminate against vampires (and then have lobbying to change it back).

    More likely, however, would be laws against necrophilia. It may have been decided in the courts that the “dead” are persons able to own property, but that wouldn’t necessarily invalidate laws against sexual relations with corpses. In fact, probably one wouldn’t want to invalidate ALL such laws (ick, the possible consequences). A law would need to be passed allowing relations ONLY with vampires and forbidding non-animate corpse relations… which would thus run into problems getting it passed (it’s hard to find a pro-necrophilia politician).

    • I’d think that trying to use necrophilia laws would again result in the laws being declared unconstitutional as-applied. If the dead are considered people, laws arbitrarily prohibiting a group of people from having sexual relations would be like anti-miscegenation laws. There would be no need to pass new laws to specifically allow the behavior, because the laws prohibiting the behavior would be overturned.

      • Martin Phipps

        Yes but apparently it was decided at the state level that marriage between vampires and regular humans would not be allowed. Presumably the law hasn’t been subjected yet to a constitutional test or else the ruling is still pending.

  14. At the beginning of the fourth season of True Blood Sookie returns from a (to her) short trip to the land of the fey to find that 1 year has passed and her loving brother Jason has sold the house that was left solely to Sookie by their Grandmother in the first season (about 6 months before Sookie’s disappearence). Would Jason have to have had Sookie declared legally dead to do this? Is being missing for a year long enough for that to happen? And once Sookie returned does she have any way to reclaim ownership of the house or at least the money that Jason received from the Sale?

    • There are a few ways around this:

      Assuming Sookie is actually the legal owner of record of the home (that is, there is actual paperwork giving her the home versus Grandmother telling her she’d get it but it never actually being handled), then yes. Jason would have to have her declared dead before the home became his (and it would go through probate, etc.). The typical length of time before most U.S. courts will declare someone dead “in absentia” is 7 years, but some jurisdictions do it in less.

      There are exceptions for situations where someone was exposed to “imminent peril” and failed to return. This can expedite the process. So if Sookie was gone for only one year but the last time she was seen was getting onto Flight 666 which crashed with no known survivors, she could have been declared dead in a matter of weeks (esp. if there’s reason to believe that some bodies wouldn’t be recovered – for example because the plane blew up in a huge fireball in midair). The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center caused a great number of certificates to be issued like this.

      But even if Sookie wasn’t dead, Jason might be able to sell the house if Sookie signed anything giving him some control over her financial affairs. I don’t watch the show, but if she gave him an unlimited power of attorney for financial and/or real estate matters, he might very well be able to sell the home. Note: Since power of attorney only entitles you to act in the person’s interests, she could sue him for it, but she’d still have to take separate action to try and get the home back.

  15. Are vampries more like corporations? Those can own property but not marry. At the moment corporations have some of the rights of “people” but not all the rights.

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