A couple of friends and I are about to embark on a Star Wars Roleplaying Game Campaign, in which one of the players is playing a Droid owned by one of the other players.

This got us to thinking regarding legal responsibility for droids in the Star Wars Universe, as a whole.

If a Droid kills a sentient being, is the Droid or the Owner held legally accountable for the murder? If the owner explicitly ordered the droid to commit the murder for one, but also if the droid acted on it's own, as it were?

In short, is the owner of a Droid held accountable for the actions of their droids?

To my recollection, there is no real answer available in Canon, so answers based on Legends are also highly welcome, as are answers based on sound reasoning and extrapolation.

Clarification based on comments: I am not asking for an answer relating to how we should handle it within the RPG setting. The question relate to Owner responsibility of Droids in the Star Wars Universe, as a whole, not as a game mechanic within a RPG setting. Answers based on information from RPG books are of course welcome, especially if they're licensed, but I do not ask for a RPG answer, but a Universe answer.

  • 2
    @user973810 "A long time ago" predates Asimov's laws, and "a galaxy far, far away" would be well outside jurisdiction, anyway. Feb 3 '15 at 22:15
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    @user973810 Asimov's three laws did not exist a long time ago in a universe far away (these are laws invented by humans and programmed into robots, not physical laws of the universe). Furthermore, his writings were about how the three laws, while appearing sound and appealing to common sense, were insufficient to prevent aberrant behavior.
    – user31563
    Feb 3 '15 at 23:16
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    @user973810, also consider that in the canon source (i.e. the movies) there are combat-capable droids that do not baulk at killing biologicals. E.g. Droidekas are sent to capture or kill the Jedi in Ep 1. In the EU novels, there are bounty hunter and assassin droids.
    – Monty Wild
    Feb 3 '15 at 23:24
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    @aslum - I'd agree with you, if he hadn't put "To my recollection, there is no real answer available in Canon, so answers based on Legends are also highly welcome". He's not just after answers from the RPG sourcebooks.
    – Valorum
    Feb 3 '15 at 23:24
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    Richard and David Thomas has got it right. I am not asking for a game mechanic or rule clarification within a RPG setting: I am asking for information on the legal responibility of Droid Owners within the Star Wars Universe, thus making this a Scifi:SE question, in my mind. I have updated the question with a small clarification. Feb 4 '15 at 8:31

The West End Games officially licensed RPG "Cynabar's Fantastic Technology : Droids" (A sourcebook for Star Wars : The Roleplaying Game) contained an extensive description of the relevant rights and responsibilities of droid owners.

In short, the droid is considered a tool. If you intentionally break its programming in order to commit a serious crime, you're considered to have committed that crime personally (and forfeit the life of the robot). If the crime occurs because of poor maintenance, you're considered to have committed a crime of negligence and are charged accordingly (and forfeit the life of the robot).

While most mechanicals are content to go about their daily tasks without complaint--at least without serious complaint--there have been a number of instances when a droid has gone beyond its programming and committed acts that are illegal. These events have occurred often enough throughout history to prompt many governments (including the Old Republic) to compose a set of governing laws regarding droid ownership and the responsibilities therein. These laws were originally placed into effect primarily as a safeguard against rogue droids and the organic beings who owned them (notably crime lords and pirates). If a droid committed an illegal act by way of a command from its master, the owner would simply be brought to trial as if he performed the act himself. Early laws in many systems stated that the droid was simply a tool with which the criminal act was performed.

Correspondingly, if a droid committed a minor crime of its own volition (such as illegally parking or maneuvering a conveyance, petty theft or other such misdemeanor), the owner would be ticketed and fined. The courts would admonish the owner to repair whatever malfunction the droid had, and that would typically be the end of the matter. In extreme cases ( destruction of private property, assault, or capital crimes), the droid would be confiscated and destroyed.

Punishment for a Class One infraction by COMPNOR standards requires the droid's owner to be sentenced to imprisonment from five years to life, and also mandates the droid's destruction.

Class One infractions include, but are not limited to, the following crimes:

  • Conspiring to overthrow the Empire.
  • Voluntary manslaughter.
  • Programming or actions with intent on harming Imperial personnel.
  • Programming a droid to engage in espionage activities against the Empire or its citizens.
  • Nice answer, and quick too! Feb 3 '15 at 13:42
  • @LepelLeLama - It's worth noting that although both the sourcebook and the RPG were LucasFilm licensed (suggesting at least a certain amount of involvement from the film's creators) neither has even been truly considered a part of the accepted canon.
    – Valorum
    Feb 3 '15 at 13:45
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    I'm willing to bet that there is close to no answer to this question in the current canon. Perhaps in the future? Either way, still the "correct" answer. Feb 3 '15 at 13:48
  • Suprising lack of capital punishments, considering Empires willingness to part with human(oid) life on a whim.
    – Deltharis
    Feb 3 '15 at 14:02
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    Closest thing I can think of in canon is that every time someone refers to a droid, it's in the possessive - YOUR droid, HIS droid, etc. That would seem to indicate a culture that closely links a droid to its owner.
    – Omegacron
    Feb 3 '15 at 22:23

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