Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Getting Off-Track

Getting Off-Track
by Rob Cottignies



            Like many of you probably have, I recently found myself wondering, 'How would I be charged in various scenarios that involve me tying a guy to railroad tracks?' Armed with a curious mind and very limited legal knowledge, here we go…

            If I tie a guy to railroad tracks and a train kills him, how would I be charged?
            I think, quite simply, I would be charged with first-degree murder. Even if it the act was brought on by some kind of passion, it's not really a reasonable response like killing your spouse after walking in on infidelity. I would've had to somehow subdue the guy and get rope from somewhere, plus know where a good spot on the local railroad tracks was.

            But the train would kill the guy. I would have already run away.
            Though a good point, I don't think this would be a valid argument. As long as I know the tracks are currently in use, I would be leaving the guy to be killed.

            What if I don't know the tracks are currently in use?
            Unless the tracks are rusted and overgrown with plant life, it would be reasonable to assume they are currently in use. I mean, they're railroad tracks. It's not like I tied the guy to a tree in the middle of a forest and he was killed by a train.

            What if I tie a guy to a tree in the middle of a forest and he gets killed by a train?
            I think I would receive a lesser charge and the worst train conductor in the world would have to answer many questions.

            If I tie a guy to railroad tracks then a passerby rescues him, how would I be charged?
            My guess is attempted murder.

            If I tie a guy to railroad tracks then a passerby sees but does not rescue him and the train kills him, would the passerby be charged?
            Sure! The Good Samaritan Act protects citizens from charges if they reasonably try to help someone in peril but injure them further in doing so. Along these lines, I think a citizen would legally have to at least try to help somebody in peril if it didn't put the citizen at risk.

            What if an illegal immigrant rescues the guy on the tracks?
            His heroics would probably be a factor in his deportation hearing.

            What if the illegal immigrant was wanted for tying someone else to railroad tracks?
            You're going off-topic.

            If I tie a guy to railroad tracks then a passerby rescues him but the guy is a maniac who kills the passerby, would I be charged in that murder?
            Wow, great question. While I certainly wouldn't escape the attempted murder (or equivalent) charge, I think I would not be charged with the passerby's murder. However, there is a parallel- If I don't tie the guy to railroad tracks, he probably won't get killed by a train. Similarly, if I don't tie the guy to railroad tracks, he probably won't kill the passerby. But I would have no idea how the guy would react after being rescued.

            What if I know the guy is a maniac before I tie him to railroad tracks?
            Still, I wouldn't know what the guy would do. This would just be an unfortunate 'Wrong place, wrong time' scenario for the passerby and the maniac would be rightfully charged with murder of some degree.

            What if being tied to railroad tracks directly causes the guy to become a maniac and kill the passerby?
            Maybe he would be charged with manslaughter. I think I would still not be charged though. Or would I? I wouldn't directly cause the guy to kill the passerby but my previous action would have done so. But how would I know the passerby would be there?

            What if I know the passerby will be there? What if his name is Jeff and he used to beat me up at school and he crosses the railroad tracks every day at 4:00?
            That's just damn clever planning.

            If I tie a guy to railroad tracks then a passerby rescues him but the guy is a real maniac who immediately runs to town and kills ten people in a grocery store, would the passerby be charged with murder?
            Probably not. I mean, how would the passerby know the guy is a real maniac?

            What if the passerby does know the guy is a real maniac? Like, alright, the guy is a serial killer. He got the charges on him thrown out even though he admitted he killed a bunch of people and would love to get at some more. The guy killed my sister so I want revenge. I can't bring myself to actually commit murder so I somehow tie this guy to railroad tracks and leave him there for a train to do it for me. The case was highly publicized so it's very unlikely the passerby wouldn't recognize the maniac serial killer. If he doesn't rescue the guy, he will have broken the law I possibly made up earlier. If he does rescue the guy, it would have been reasonable for the passerby to assume the guy would kill more people. What is Jeff supposed to do!?!?
            Good night, everybody!



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