5
$\begingroup$

Let's say a rogue physicist wanted to make a fortune allowing criminals to use time tech to avoid the time when statute of limitations would allow them to be arrested. But how could someone prove to a criminal that this system would work? I suppose making something from another time appear might work, but is that really the only way?

$\endgroup$
5
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Assuming that these are crimes with a statute of limitations (not all are, and which crimes do have a statute of limitations varies by jurisdiction), what is the benefit to the criminal compared to fleeing to a non-extradition country? Is the time travel only to the future? $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2023 at 5:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I urge you to read the superb and highly influential Vernor Vinge bubble books (The peace war and Marooned in spacetime) $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Jun 14, 2023 at 13:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't you make a lot more money selling this service above-board to medical patients? If your enemies are within (disease, injury, etc) and your allies are outside (medical technology and available resources), winkling to the future gives your allies time to work. If your enemies are outside (cops, the courts) and your only ally is yourself, winkling to the future gives your enemies time to work. $\endgroup$
    – g s
    Jun 15, 2023 at 2:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Joe Smith Did you read the Isaac Asimov story "A Loint of Paw"? $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2023 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ g s, I don't understand what you're saying. Are you feeling alright? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Smith
    Jun 19, 2023 at 0:23

3 Answers 3

12
$\begingroup$

There's a number of problems with this. One, if the government(s) find out about the practice, either all statutes of limitation will be repealed or time travel exceptions will be put into the laws.

A bigger problem is that travelling far into the future is a drastic thing. Let's say a mafia boss wants to avoid imprisonment by going 30 years into the future when their crimes will be subject to statute of limitations. Thirty years is a very long time. Their wife will be dead, their mistresses middle aged and married to other crime bosses, their children now grown up and with children of their own. Their most trusted henchmen will be dead, in prison or serving the new crime boss who is now the head of mafia. After the old boss just disappeared for thirty years, will the new boss just step aside and let them take over? Not likely.

The whole criminal enterprise may well become obsolete. Let's say that the old boss made most profits from dealing marijuana. However, now marijuana has been legalised for fifteen years and everyone now buys their weed from licensed shops. More than that, everything has changed, people all dress funny, the young have no respect anymore and there is all this weird new technology that you're expected to use. Faced with all that, the crime boss may well prefer to flee to a non-extradition country or to just take their chances and hope they can continue to evade the law enforcement.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ "The whole criminal enterprise may well become obsolete." Which was the premise behind the original Twilight Zone episode The Rip Van Winkle Caper. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Jun 14, 2023 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ You make some fair points $\endgroup$
    – Joe Smith
    Jun 19, 2023 at 4:58
9
$\begingroup$

Wouldn't work.

If the criminals left behind evidence, they could still be convicted despite not recovering the stolen property.

Frame Challenge

Instead of the statute of limitations, focus upon double jeopardy. Criminals go back in time and steal stuff while their younger self has a bulletproof alibi.

Light fingered Larry wants to steal the Mona Lisa. Has an almost foolproof plan. Larry goes back in time to when his younger self was in jail and steals it. Larry leaves plenty of evidence, DNA, fingerprints, video evidence.

Younger Larry is charged and appears in court. The prosecution charges ahead with a bulletproof case until Larry drops the bombshell that he can't have done it as he was in jail at the time. The case falls apart and Larry is found not guilty.

Due to Double Jeopardy laws, he can't be charged again for the same crime. Older Larry can't be found guilty of the crime anymore.

$\endgroup$
5
  • $\begingroup$ the concrete meaning of Statute of limitations depends on the jurisdiction, In Britain, you could still be indicted, but could keep possession. In some US states, you could not be indicted, but would have to return the posession (or the gains from it, or some restitution) About the double jeopardy: Just because you claim to be the older version of some younger version (and have the same DNA, a future passport, yada yada), would not keep the law from coming down on one of you for the theft (they might also come down on both of you for the double existence of passports, or your lack of one..) $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Jun 14, 2023 at 5:53
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ One generally cannot raise a "surprise" alibi defense, the prosecution will be made aware of Larry's defense well before the trial starts. Such an obviously unwinnable case would be dropped before the trial began, and without a trial, you have no double jeopardy. $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2023 at 13:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Such an obviously unwinnable case would be dropped before the trial began, and without a trial, you have no double jeopardy. " This is true... but you still got away with the crime, which is the real point. Having a perfect alibi is the objective, not the double jeopardy. $\endgroup$
    – F2Andy
    Jun 15, 2023 at 10:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The only problem is going back in time is a lot harder than going forward in time - maybe the physicist doesn't know how to do it... And if he did, there are much better ways to make a fortune than this convoluted alibi scheme... $\endgroup$
    – komodosp
    Jun 16, 2023 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ I'm glad this has sparked interesting discussion $\endgroup$
    – Joe Smith
    Jun 19, 2023 at 0:29
6
$\begingroup$

If the effect can be finetuned to make someone disappear for only a short amount of time, then you could offer clients a "free sample". They can jump forward one day/week/month, verify themselves that the time has passed, and then require payment for the full multi-decade jump.

On the other hand, if the Winklenator can only do 20-year leaps (as in the namesake story), then those first couple clients will be tricky to convince. After the first test subjects re-emerge, you could rely on word of mouth advertising. But if you're not willing to wait 20 years, you could just use the tech on yourself.

If you are willing to use the tech on yourself, then you might be able to arrange some proof ahead of time. Take out strange advertisements in the newspaper, and show clients the microfilm decades later. Hide ciphered messages in the town's time capsule. Take a sequence of videos showing your unaging face next to an aging collaborator...

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I like the idea of freebies! - the idea of travelling into the future 20 years ahead (i suppose there is no way back?) as the evil scientist yourself seems fishy though. You'd lose your contacts, someone may replicate your tech in the meantime, it's just very risky, and the ways to prove that you are indeed a 20-year-ahead traveller are all adjacent to stage magic, so people would still be doubtful. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Jun 14, 2023 at 5:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Kind of what I was thinking. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Smith
    Jun 19, 2023 at 0:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .