Related to this question: What happens if a muggle-born wizard doesn't want to learn magic?

If the muggle-born child isn't tutored in magic, is he/she still subject to wizarding laws?

Are they going to be bound by the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery if they don't have a wand and are never properly trained in magic? Tom Riddle and Lily Evans had varying degrees of control over their magic even without wands and training. They intuitively were able to control the force within themselves. They had the advantage of attending Hogwarts, but what if they hadn't?

Are they going to lock up a kid who doesn't / can't attend school but is still using their magical abilities?

  • It's Britain, they've locked people up for less. – John O Aug 15 '12 at 15:31
  • @JohnO - Off with your head for that comment! – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 15 '12 at 17:08
  • @JohnO: just like everywhere else in the world. Britain is in no way special regarding this. – vsz Aug 15 '12 at 17:28
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The answer has nothing to do with Harry Potter but with a vast majority of human Judicial systems which inherited Roman legal concept of "ignorantia legis non excusat", or "ignorance of the law is no excuse". (quote source is Yahoo answers).

Therefore, whether a student who was Muggleborn attended Hogwarts, or did not, the only difference is that the former would be aware of the laws, and as we know from above, being subject to their jurisdiction would NOT be affected by the distinction.

We know that underage wizards who accidentally cause magical events are not subject to punishments (see Harry's incident with Python at the zoo) as they can't control their magic, which is the main distinction.

But once a wizard is shown ability to control it, they will be equally subject to the restrictions whether they are muggleborn or not, went to Hogwarts or not.

The main reason for posssibly confusing this is the following correllation: presumably, Muggle-born kids who went to Hogwarts can no longer claim they were producing magic by accident, as they were taught about magic; whereas a "feral" Muggle-born could use that defense, as Tom Riddle probably would have done had he needed to. But if the Ministry could prove that "feral" wizard was using magic on purpose, then they would be subject to the Laws.

  • 1
    But the idea behind "ignorance of the law is no excuse" is that people are expected to learn the law (at least to the extent necessary in order to comply with it); it's hardly compatible with a legal system where the laws are kept completely secret from the general public. (This is starting to sound Kafkaesque!) Note that the idea behind the principle is not that the law is simply correct/moral/just whether or not you know of it; for example, you are not expected to obey laws that don't exist yet, no matter how just they'll be, because you have no way to know about them. – ruakh Aug 15 '12 at 18:07
  • @ruakh - I'm not a lawyer and don't even play one on internett, but I was under impression that the doctrine means just that and very simple - if the law's on the books, you ARE subject to it whether you are aware of it or not. I don't see how non-existing laws relate to this discussion. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Aug 15 '12 at 18:16
  • Re: "if the law's on the books": Well, but are wizarding laws "on the books"? The novels make clear that they're not: the wizarding world keeps itself completely secret, and people outside that world cannot just look up the laws. (My point is, the principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse is tied to the principle that laws should be public. When you remove the latter, you can't assume the former.) – ruakh Aug 15 '12 at 18:40
  • 1
    @DVK, I'm glad you're not a lawyer :) At least in the US criminal code (as opposed to the civil code, or non-US countries), there is the concept of mens rea, or "guilty mind". To be criminally prosecuted, the person must have deliberately committed, an act they know, or have reason to believe,is wrong. (Note there are some criminal laws where "strict liability" overrules that, such as selling alcohol to minors, whether you know they are a minor or not). – John C Aug 15 '12 at 20:42
  • 3
    @JohnC: That's not quite the same thing. Insofar as mens rea relates to the person's knowledge, it mostly has to do with the person's knowledge of the facts, not the person's knowledge of the law. For example, if I cut down a tree without realizing it houses a protected species, that's ignorance of the facts (so actus reus, but no mens rea -- a decent defense), but if I realize it houses the species and simply don't realize that that makes my action illegal, that's ignorance of the law (both actus reus and mens rea -- not a defense). There are some exceptions, though. – ruakh Aug 15 '12 at 21:28

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.