Should it not be criminal to unwarrantedly cast a Memory Charm to another person? I mean, assuming Gilderoy Lockhart didn't go coo-coo, isn't he criminally liable for altering the memory of his victims?

I am just bothered by the idea that any wizard can alter someone else's memory at their own will. Hermione casting Memory Charm to her parents sounds acceptable but Lockhart-type casting should not be

  • 10
    It's only illegal if you get caught.
    – Roger
    Feb 14, 2014 at 15:08
  • Isn't that fairly subjective? I mean, whether or not they're criminal seems like it would be a really subjective answer.
    – Zibbobz
    Feb 14, 2014 at 15:09
  • 6
    The question clearly asks "are they criminal", and makes the case for why they should be so. This is only done to justify asking the question, not to invite more opinion. The question is on-topic, please don't vtc. This isn't subjective, it's asking if it is legal, not whether it is moral/ethical.
    – John O
    Feb 14, 2014 at 16:33
  • 2
    @Zibbobz (and whoever else keeps voting to close) - not subjective in the least. Either JKR's universe has info that it's criminal, or that it's NOT criminal, or it has no answer. Feb 14, 2014 at 19:20
  • Didn't vote to close. I was just asking because I was honestly not sure.
    – Zibbobz
    Feb 14, 2014 at 21:50

2 Answers 2


There are worse things in the Wizarding Universe that ARE criminal. In particular - Mind Control.

Memory Charms seem only to wipe out an individuals recollection of events, meaning they can no longer remember certain things happening, but are still fully in control of themselves and, with time, could fully recover and become a functioning part of Wizard Society.

That being said, it's never stated that heavy-handed memory charms, like the ones Gilderoy Lockheart used, aren't illegal. All we know is that lower-level memory charms seem to be considered okay for keeping the wizarding world safe, and that Lockheart got away with his memory charms largely by nobody ever finding out he was doing it.

So in short, yes it probably should be illegal to wipe away someone's entire memory. BUT, he doesn't get thrown in jail, probably because his memory of doing those things has been wiped clean, and so he isn't a danger to the wizarding society anymore.

Update: There is another case - Hermione 'sealing' away the memories her parents had of herself. This may have been illegal, but certainly wasn't known about by the Ministry, and was definitely well-intended.

  • I believe that there are memory charms castable by powerful wizards which will alter memories, not just erase them. That said, I can't back that up at the moment.
    – Jeff
    Feb 14, 2014 at 16:05
  • 1
    @Jeff - yes. Ask a question, and I'll post the details that are too wide for the comment in an answer Feb 14, 2014 at 19:36
  • @Jeff: Voldemort did it to Hepzibah Smith's house elf as well as Morfin Gaunt; also Professor Slughorn modified his own memory in such a way that Dumbledore was only able to get his hands on the modified copy and wasn't even able to fix it
    – user13267
    Feb 18, 2014 at 9:45

Memory Charms are NOT illegal.

This is shown by the fact that they are openly taught in spellbook "The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2" on Pottermore (without any mention of legality).

In addition, Kingsley Shacklebolt cast one on Marietta Edgecombe in view - and full approval - of Dumbledore, to prevent her from revealing DA meetings to Umbridge. I doubt Dumbledore or Kingsley would go all the way into illegal charms for that end.

However, they aren't exactly considered a good thing, as evidenced that they can not be used in Dueling.

  • 1
    I don't think it shows why using memory charms for devious purposes may not be illegal. May be carrying a pocket knife isn't illegal but cutting someone with it is. Again for eg, perhaps stunning spells aren't illegal, but if a maniac suddenly starts stunning people in the middle of Diagon Alley, I'm sure he would get arrested
    – user13267
    Feb 18, 2014 at 9:49
  • 1
    To the Shacklebolt/Dumbledore argument -- what about GoF and Unforgivable curses? Dumbledore's approval certainly did not imply their legality.
    – quapka
    Jun 3, 2014 at 15:35
  • are you certain Dumbledore approved the use of the UC in GoF by "Moody"? @quapka?
    – NKCampbell
    May 1, 2018 at 20:29
  • Note that the spellbook was on old Pottermore only. See scifi.stackexchange.com/a/113609/4918 about old Pottermore, pottermore.wikia.com/wiki/The_Standard_Book_of_Spells,_Grade_2 about that textbook extract on old Pottermore, and pottermore.wikia.com/wiki/Memory_Charm about Memory Charm as it appeared on that textbook extract.
    – b_jonas
    Oct 3, 2018 at 10:19

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