In what ways would it be different from solving a human murder case? And what circumstances would make killing robots a serious offense, even if they don't have rights and are still referred to as manufactured property?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm VTC as this question really depends on how you define robots in your world. For example they could have human rights, be treated as an invader or just a tool. It also depends on the technological capabilities of your robots (e.g. recording of last seen image). At best, killing a robot is just property damage. At worst, its murder of a sentient being. It is really up to you as there is no one way to create and address such a scenario without much more information. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Feb 26, 2019 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ Hello Voyd. This question is very, very vague. What's a robot? What were the circumstances of the murder? What is the technology level? What country on Earth today would best exemplify the investigative capacity and resources of your detective? Are you looking for investigative methods? Legal consequences? Social consequences? (Remember you cannot have everything. Ask for too much and the question is too broad.) Please include as much info as you can and keep the question as narrowly defined as possible and we can get this reopened. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Feb 26, 2019 at 3:30

1 Answer 1


You could put it under Vandalism or Destruction of Property laws. If these robots were somehow written as being sentient that might raise moral issues, but not legal ones based on them being property. You could make it more serious by having the crime treated as an "attack on the owner by proxy," something like a Hate Crime tied to the human owner.

Or if you want to really twist meanings for a story, the destruction of "manufactured property" could fall under the legal umbrella of "conversion," which is "a civil wrong (tort) in which one converts another's property to his/her own use, which is a fancy way of saying 'steals.'" By destroying the robot you have stolen its use from the owner.

So in this way it's a theft, and assuming that robots are expensive, it would be equivalent to Grand Theft Robo or something similar, in a very roundabout but potentially interesting way.

I can't think of anything crime more serious because it's pre-determined that it's only property.

A complication in solving the case might be that robots literally do all look the same, again based on your world. Can the detective prove that this robot wasn't some other junk robot ready for the shredder?

As for other differences: robots may have recordings being captured even after "death," or most certainly right up until death shuts one down. Whether robot recordings are given as much weight in courts as human eyewitness testimony is up to the world and story, recordings are faked all the time... What if it were other robots that recorded, they are property and might not be able to testify.

  • $\begingroup$ Detectives might simply be able to download the sim card or on board hard drive to get clues to the destruction of the robot, and it is likely they can be networked together so you might be able to get information much like tracking and triangulating cell phones. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Feb 26, 2019 at 2:24
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    $\begingroup$ Grand Theft Automaton? :D $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2019 at 2:40
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    $\begingroup$ @ArkensteinXII I like your GTA way better =) $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2019 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ " What if it were other robots that recorded, they are property and might not be able to testify." If property, they can be subpoenaed and examined. A very close analogy would be with CCTV recordings, which can be subpoenaed. $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2019 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ @WhatRoughBeast the difference being that CCTV are not sentient and could not modify or redact recordings of their own volition. And both lines of reasoning could lead to neat plot trajectories! $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2019 at 20:18

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