Question: Do children have to pay for their parents’ crimes?

This is a follow up question to my previous question (Who owns genes?), but with some added stuff. In this world, they also have memory implantation devices. These machines can read the memories of one person and implant it into another. By "cloning" I mean making a child with the exact same DNA as the parent. The child is born as an infant.

What if a guilty person made a clone of themselves, and implanted their memories into the clone? Would the clone also need to be punished? What if the original died/didn’t die after implanting the memories?

What if the child has two parents, gets the memories from both of them, and one of them is a criminal? Does the child also need to be punished then?

What if the child has two parents, and only gets the memories from the parent that is a criminal? Punishment or no?

What if the child doesn’t get the parents’ memories until it is 5 years old? 10 years old? 15? 20?

What if a criminal implants their memories in a newborn child that isn’t theirs? Does the child also have to be punished then?

Here are these same questions simplified:

  1. Is the child a biological descendant of the criminal?
  2. Were the memories implanted in the child at birth?
  3. Were any other person’s memories implanted when the criminal’s memories were?
  4. Did the criminal die shortly after the memories were implanted?

It seems obvious to me that if a criminal clones himself, implants his memories into the clone after it's born, and then kills himself, then that clone should be punished for the crimes. In the other cases, I don't really know.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does the society consider punishment useful? why? $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Jan 14, 2017 at 3:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It doesn't seem obvious to me that the clone should be punished for the crimes. You're essentially punishing them for having memories of actions they never carried out. This would only make sense if the purpose of the punishment was simply to re-educate. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Smith
    Jan 14, 2017 at 5:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please refrain from asking more than one question per question $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Jan 14, 2017 at 8:10
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on the law under my jurisdiction all cloning are illegal and punishable by death, abetting shall face capital punishment too regardless of modus operandi...👮 high rewards are put up for clones dead or alive and will receive pension plus free dental and never have to queue in any govt places. Guaranteed knighthood! $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 14, 2017 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ These are questions of law. Just as in the "real world", there really isn't any logical answer. It's whatever princes, politicians, demogogues, &c can get to become law. So pick whatever answer works best for your story world, and back-form a justification for it. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 14, 2017 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


There are WAY too many questions here, too many caveats and differing circumstances, and on top of that, is pretty opinion-based and seems to be more about plot generation than world-building. But hey, I'll take a stab...

What if a guilty person made a clone of themselves, and implanted their memories into the clone? Would the clone also need to be punished?

Has the original already served their sentence?

What if the original died/didn’t die after implanting the memories?

They can't be both alive and dead. I guess this is actually two questions and not one if it refers to two different states of being.


Are they using this to get out of their sentence?

Didn't die

Will the original be serving their sentence?

The questions I am posing, that you'll see have a pattern, have something to do with the legal concept of double jeopardy--that is, that you can't be tried for the same crime twice, or punished for it twice. If the clone is a continuation of original criminal X and they use cloning and death to get out of punishment, if the clone is legally still them, they would finish out the sentence. If, however, the original lives on, they can finish out their own sentence, while the clone walks free. You can't punish one person twice for the same crime.

This only works if the lawyer can prove that the clone is the same person. If, because they are a baby, and not the same age as the person known as Criminal X, despite all the memories and identical DNA it might be possible to prove that they are not the same person.

As a side note, I have no idea how you'd make a baby serve hard time.


It seriously does not matter. Legally not the same person, memories or not. You'd have to prove that they were the same person, which would be much easier to prove legally if they were also clones and/or had no other memories/personality. But for the sake of argument, apply all the logic from the other answers above as well.

Is the child a biological descendant of the criminal?

You tell me. You have different conditions applied to the different questions.

Were the memories implanted in the child at birth?

Again, you have different circumstances applied in each instance.

Were any other person’s memories implanted when the criminal’s memories were?

No idea. This is your story, not mine. This site is here to answer questions concerning world building, not be a way to generate plot points.

What's the difference, you might ask? The questions would be more focused on a single point, and more about the world/legal system rather than people's opinion. "Given a world with a judicial system evolved from the current British system, 200 years in the future, would the clone of a criminal who deposited his entire mind in his clone be considered responsible for his crimes? How might a legal system like this one handle such a thing? Would the clone have to finish out the criminal's sentence if the criminal died right after the process? And if the criminal did live, would the clone have to serve for the crimes with him? Clone starts as a baby with all the memories FYI." OR "Two hundred years into the future, memory transfer and cloning is possible. If all of a criminal's memories can be transferred to their blank slate clone, would that clone be responsible for the criminal's crimes legally, given a future legal system borne from the United States of America?"

Did the criminal die shortly after the memories were implanted?

Again, how am I supposed to answer that question? Wait, I've got it! They are alive/dead. Schrodinger's Criminal. :)

You're new, so visit this meta on asking questions. YOu'll get the hang of it!

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! This is only my second question here, I'm surprised but I guess I haven't quite gotten the hang of asking the right kind of questions about this kind of thing. Thanks for the cool answer anyway! $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2017 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ You can't learn the system unless someone points you to stuff! It's pretty likely this one will get closed soon. When it does, take a look at the box with the links the will be set there. I think it leads you to a how-to-ask. You can always get it reopened, IF you edit it down. $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2017 at 17:57

First, don't talk about a child. It is a clone with memory transfer.

Your society will have to decide if the clone is legally the same person as the parent. Does it "inherit" contracts? Marriages? Bank accounts? Driving licenses? Is the clone legally a minor? If so, are there legal precedents from an earlier time which give an unconditional immunity?

My answer has plenty of question marks. Just how you answer those is up to you as a writer, and we can't really help you there. If you have answers, you could show them to us to and ask if they are consistent.

By the way, you're not the first to ask those question. One novel won a Hugo. Decide if you want to be spoiled to avoid similarities or avoid spoilers.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I'll probably check out that book and see if it answers my questions. At the very least, thanks for giving me more questions to think about and consider. $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2017 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ You make a good point about the legal distinctions a society will make if/when such cloning, memory transfers, and their combination, are possible, so +1 for that. And yet, I'm pretty sure a clone is still a child, just like each identical twin is still a child. A child can favor one parent pretty visibly, and will still not be legally the same person. The memory transfer can muddle that up (also, is child abuse), depending on how the child self-identifies, but they are still different people. I wanted to remove my +1 for that disagreement, but the rest of your point is well made. $\endgroup$
    – Megha
    Jan 15, 2017 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Megha, the ethics of doing that in the first place are another can of worms. And the start of a good story. Probably not a good game setting. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jan 15, 2017 at 11:31

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