Imperial Law

The most important thing to understand about law in the Imperium is that it is based on the concept that the individual charged is guilty unless proven innocent, and that the bar for proving oneself innocent is very high indeed. Due to the existence of psychic powers, daemons of the warp, and arcane technology, even such things as alibis or witnesses seeing the suspect somewhere else at the time of the crime may not be sufficient to prove innocence. The legal systems of the Imperium are additionally very sceptical of the concept of innocence, and it usually takes a good deal of convincing for the accused to be released unpunished. It is far more common for courts to make decisions regarding exactly what a person is guilty of than whether that person is guilty or innocent.

In addition, the legal system of the Imperium takes little notice of mitigating circumstances. While they are considered, they have little weight in determining guilt and punishment. Mitigating circumstances are more often used during attempts to define the exact crime which was committed than in determining the sentence for that crime (though depending on the judge and the crime they may have some influence on that as well.)

When determining punishment, the Judiciary is uninterested in such trivialities as rehabilitation. Neither is it interested (in theory) in punishment in most cases. Rather the main consideration is that of redemption. Within the Imperium all crimes are considered to be crimes against the Emperor of Man, and all criminals are considered to have fallen from His grace. Punishment is considered to be a form of penance – suffering inflicted upon the individual to purge sin from them and offer them insight into the suffering of the Emperor on their behalf. A secondary consideration in punishment is deterrence – punishment for crimes must be sufficiently severe to discourage others from undertaking the same crime.

The exception to the above are crimes such as heresy, for which there is considered to be no redemption possible. In these cases deterrence and retribution are the main considerations – such punishments almost always involve death, frequently in a public and often a protracted and painful manner.

The structure and particulars of a judiciary trial vary considerably from world to world, and within the institutions of the Imperium. One common form, however, is a four judge panel. One judge, known as the Emperor’s Mercy, acts as the defence, introducing evidence and legal information favourable to the accused. The second judge, known as the Emperor’s Wrath, acts as the prosecution, introducing evidence and legal information unfavourable to the accused. The third judge, known as the Emperor’s Wisdom, determines the verdict and the sentence. The fourth judge, known as the Emperor’s Vigil, functions only to monitor the other three judges and may at any time strike one down and take his or her place if he feels that they are not adequately performing their duties.

An Imperial trial takes place in three stages. The first is the Time of Determination. It is at this time that the judges determine which charges will be levied against the accused. Imperial courts have wide latitude in determining which crimes they do and do not choose to notice, though ignoring flagrant violations of Imperial law may bring down stern retribution from superiors (or from the Emperor's Vigil). Given the "guilty until proven innocent" bias of Imperial courts, it is often far easier for the court to simply not take up certain charges than it is for an individual to be charged and then acquitted. The second stage is the Time of Deliberation. This is when the formal charges are read out, and the judges deliberate on what sentence will be imposed for each. The determination of appropriate punishment (where not mandated by Imperial law) is made based not on the basis of the severity of the offense per se, but rather on what penance the judges determine to be appropriate in order for the accused to be afforded redemption. Acquittal at this stage of the trial is very rare, but can occur if new information comes to light, if the individual in question performs some highly redemptive act, or if it turns out to be politically expedient to do so. The final stage is the Time of Penance. This is when the sentence determined is carried out. Imperial citizens have no right of appeal, and sentences are generally carried out immediately after they are determined, though the Emperor's Mercy may request a stay of up to 24 hours if he or she can convince the Emperor's Wisdom that such might be useful (for example if there is a chance that a powerful individual such as one of the High Lords of Terra, a sector governor, or an Inquisitor might intervene).


Definition – abandonment, denial, disaffiliation, or renunciation of belief in the one true faith of the Ecclesiarchy, of the God-Emperor, and of the holy Adeptus Ministorum. This includes speaking ill of the Emperor or of the Imperium, defacing holy artifacts, inciting heretical thoughts or actions or speaking openly about forbidden subjects.

Punishment – Guardsmen found guilty of apostasy will have his limbs severed and will be left to bleed to death for the Emperor’s pleasure. The body will then be burned to remove any lingering taint. The Guardsman’s name will be stricken from the Regimental Honor Roll, and his family will be charged for the cost of his replacement.


Definition - irreverence or disrespect toward the God-Emperor, members of the Ecclesiarchy or other holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs.

Punishment – Guardsmen found guilty of blasphemy may suffer one of four punishments. They are, in order of increasing severity –

  1. Demotion to Conscript
  2. Reassignment to a Penal Battalion
  3. Stripped of rank and reassignment to a Penal Battalion
  4. Stripped of rank and reassignment to a Penal Battalion as Penitent Ordinance


Definition – failure to salute an image of the Emperor/Imperial Aquila/Regimental Colors or any demonstration of disrespect towards the above through word, action, or lack of action.

Punishment – Guardsmen found guilty of disrespect will be branded on the left cheek with the sign of the Aquila and shall suffer any or all of the following –

  1. Flogging of not less than 50 and not more than 500 blows
  2. Incarceration for not less than 1 month and not more than 1 year
  3. Demoted to Conscript
  4. Reassignment to a Penal Battalion
  5. Shot and name stricken from Regimental Honor roll
  6. Stripped of weapons and armor and sent into combat without until such time as he is deemed by his commanding officer to have redeemed himself (but not less than 1 month).
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