This is a rewrite of this question in an attempt to bring it back in topic and avoid the story based objections.

Imagine a world like ours but where a temporary portal could be constructed between two different locations allowing people to simply walk between these two places with a single step. The places to be linked could be anywhere on earth. The portal could be switched off and on from either side of the port by its owner. It doesn’t matter how this happens, it is simply something beyond current science that one person has invented or discovered.

If the inventor of such a device was careful that no one saw him use it, but broke laws when he did so, such as failing to get a visa or worse, would it be possible for the police to successfully prosecute him if the device could not be found and he claimed the case against him was preposterous nonsense as he physically could not have been at that location and he had police witnesses who would testify that he was thousands of miles away just a few minutes before the crime (with expert evidence from professional scientists if required who would explain that traveling through a portal to another location was not possible and would break the laws of physics).

This is a legal issue about prosecuting illegal activity when the methods used to commit crimes are way beyond our current scientific understanding. Arguments about physical aspects of the device or its workings are off topic. Arguments about Governments acting illegally are off topic. No doubt this device will be considered to be “magic” but if so it is the only magical element allowed. Answers may be from the perspective of any western jurisdiction.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2017 at 1:38

14 Answers 14


Imagine the trial in something roughly like a Western legal system:

  • Most jurisdictions require proof "beyond reasonable doubt" for a criminal conviction or words to a similar effect (it comes down to the old Roman in dubio pro reo). It is the duty of the prosecution to prove what happened. So if the claims of the prosecution require technology beyond what is currently known, it should be relatively easy for the defense to knock holes into the theory and to raise reasonable doubts in the mind of the judge and/or jury.
  • That being said, the prosecution does not have to demonstrate every little step of what happened. There have been murder convictions without the body of the victim. So there might be convictions e.g. of theft if the inventor left DNA traces in a locked vault where he should not have been, ever.
  • Of course an alibi would be a powerful defense, but not foolproof. The prosecution would not have to prove when the inventor broke into the bank vault.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we have shown that somebody who looks like the defendant was in the vault in LA. The DNA traces match. We have no idea how the defendant traveled to Paris afterwards, but we are not charging him with any traffic offenses, speeding, or immigration violations. We are charging him with theft, and you must convict him on that count."

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution suggests that the defendant was in LA sometime during the night from Thursday to Friday. We have shown that has been in Paris on Friday morning. There is no plane in passenger service today to make that possible, and the prosecution has proposed no other explanation how he traveled that fast. Surely you don't think he has a Concorde stashed away on some private airfield."

If the jury and judge are reasonable, the prosecution would have a hard time to overcome the alibi. But it might have equally strong evidence the other way.

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    $\begingroup$ "beyond reasonable doubt" is a very america-specific way of interpreting law, its not all at that much shared in other western legal systems. In fact, if the judge is reasonably sure that he was in the vault at that time (DNA evidence, video footage etc), it might not matter that he was seen in paris. Was he in Paris? Or did he hire a doppelgänger? The same method used to plant DNA in the vault could have been employed to plant evidence that he was in paris. in the end, its up to the judge which one is more plausible - him being in paris or him being in the vault. $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Sep 21, 2017 at 7:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Polygnome “Beyond reasonable doubt” is not entirely America specific. It is used in New Zealand and Japan and other countries including, until recently, the UK. Even where the wording is different the meaning is often much the same. In the UK the jury must be “sure that the defendant is guilty” and in English law it has always been the case that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ "in dubio pro reo" and "beyond reasonable doubt" are two different things, though. There is a very specific legal meaning behind "beyond reasonable doubt" that is fairly unique to the american legal system. You do not need to prove anything in most western legal systems, not in a mathematical sense of proof anyways. you only need to make a convincing argument, which is quite different from rigorously proving anything. $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Sep 21, 2017 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Polygnome, the US system doesn't require a mathematical proof, either. And in most Western systems there is a fairly strong presumption of innocence in criminal trials that goes way beyond "preponderance of evidence" or a similar level. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Sep 21, 2017 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Polygnome, one could say that lay judges in Germany are more bound by the law (including "im Zweifel für den Angeklagten") than an American jury, because they must explain their reasoning how they found the defendant guilty. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Sep 21, 2017 at 10:24

If there's enough evidence of wrongdoing, of course it would be possible to prosecute, it would just be a long process - but also, I assume this teleporting person isn't just shoplifting, but is in fact breaking major laws. I say this because a years long investigation into a rash of shoplifting incidents doesn't seem realistic. Even with major crimes, this person would have to be committing them over and over in places extremely far apart (which seems like a massive lack of awareness on the part of this criminal)

First, we'd have to know the suspect is committing crimes. We'd have to have some kind of evidence that it was this portal user. Eyewitness accounts, video footage, you name it. Unless this portal system is invisible to camera and to the naked eye, both of these would probably result in the witness or viewer of the camera footage saying that this person's method of travel was some kind of portal, or some form of teleportation. Whether that gets believed immediately, especially from an eyewitness, is a different story.

With the suspect identified, it's up to investigators to find and present evidence of the fact that the teleporting suspect committed the crime and has the means to teleport. Police would also have to find a way to bring the suspect into custody in a way that mitigates their teleporting, since it goes without saying that they are nearly impossible to contain while still able to use the technology.

With all of that in place, a court case only needs evidence compelling enough to convince a jury.


Let's assume the teleporting criminal is smart and doesn't have the cliché character flaw of being oblivious to the implication of being over 200 miles apart on camera within a matter of 15 minutes. They travel disguised, make sure to come and go in places where there are as few witnesses as possible, commit their crime cleanly and efficiently, and in general leave as little proof as possible...

At that point, I think the odds of successful prosecution are slim to none. Various areas in the world would have different accounts, eyewitnesses would be describing a different perpetrator (as would video footage), and if the teleportation was done away from as many people and cameras as possible, the act itself would never be seen. After long enough, if enough eyewitnesses in enough places say they're seeing the perpetrator literally disappear, it might be a detail of interest to police. This person would probably remain an uncaught criminal for the duration of their life thanks to this technology, and until it becomes publicly available (or at least more widely known), no one would know to suspect it.

Think about missing persons like D.B. Cooper or unsolved cases like the Zodiac Killer - even without crazy teleporting technology, they got away. All it takes is covering your tracks.

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    $\begingroup$ "...even without crazy teleporting technology" How do we know? $\endgroup$
    – JesseTG
    Sep 21, 2017 at 10:06

This trial is not too different from real trials. It ultimately will become a battle of evidence. Prosecution has evidence suggesting that the perpetrator committed the crime, the defense has evidence suggesting that he couldn't, because he could not physically be present. The strategy at trial from each side will be about convincing the jury that the evidence and story presented by the other side does not represent what actually happened. This is what actually happens in trials in real life. Each side may have what it considers to be definitive proof, but in reality, it comes down to how much weight the jury members attach to each testimony, witness, and exhibit.

There was wisdom in the construction of our judicial system that required the convincing of a jury of peers. Outside of the mathematical realm, there exists no objective standard of proof. As such, our system challenges the prosecutor of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt for criminal cases, to the jury the details of his case. Each person of the jury has their own internal standards of proof, and it is the goal of the prosecutor to select a favorable jury and then convince them of his case. Alternatively, it is the goal of the defense to also select a favorable jury, and then to obfuscate or disprove the case. I would challenge you to find a type of evidence that is above reproach. Pictures and videos can be faked, witnesses are unreliable and can fall apart under cross examination, and physical evidence can be contaminated, the chain of custody called into question, or the conclusions of the experts challenged.

The fact that the potential defendant can manufacture, at the time of the crime, seemingly exonerating evidence gives him a tremendous advantage, but it makes him nowhere near invincible. Jurors can choose to ignore evidence, there may be enough evidence on the prosecutors side that they are convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" to ignore the exculpatory evidence. Additionally, the jurors may not make decisions that are entirely cerebral. They make make decisions based upon emotions and intuition.

It is my estimation that this guy will ultimately get caught. He may be able to buy a few passes with his exculpatory evidence, but if he continues in his life of crime, he will ultimately get stuck. That type of life changes a persons psyche, and most other humans will pick up on those danger queues and intuit the correct decision in opposition to what may be exonerating evidence.

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    $\begingroup$ I liked how you took it beyond the trial event and addressed the person's perspective on life. You also mentioned the ability of a jury to judge based on more than logic, which is important to consider. $\endgroup$
    – Hans Vonn
    Nov 8, 2017 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @HansVonn . Thanks. That is an important concept, the corrupting influence of misused power. This board is ultimately about telling stories, which are most useful when they allow us to view ourselves from large enough distance that we receive the message without becoming offended by the messenger. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Vonn
    Nov 9, 2017 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ @HansVonn I think those are important things to consider. I have been pondering the concept of proof lately, as it frequently comes up in discussion. I have found that proof is an internal standard, or individual journey. A good teacher will not ask their students to believe them. They will challenge their students to question them or to perform an experiment for themselves. A good teacher knows they stand on the side of truth, and invites all to come and partake. But this meal of truth cannot be force fed. It can only be voluntarily eaten. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Vonn
    Nov 9, 2017 at 5:27

If he is that careful, how does the government know who committed the crimes or (in the case of visa violation, that a crime was committed)?

There would be no prosecution because they wouldn't even be looking at him as a suspect.

Now, if the bank had whole stacks of serialized currency and he started spending that currency. It could be traced back to him and he could be charged with a number of offenses from receiving stolen goods (good luck explaining how you got the money) to money laundering.

If he starts selling a bunch of gold bars or other artifacts in a big way, people will wonder where he got them. If he doesn't have a good answer, he may be treated as if he was selling stolen goods.

If some of the people he takes on trips start talking about it, there is witness evidence. The government may then try to infiltrate one of the trips with tracking and recording equipment. All of that is legal to do. All they have to do is record a crime that he or one of his other passengers commit to get him with aiding and abetting.


I think the answer to this might be relatively simple. Even though they might not completely or at all understand how he managed to leap from one place to another with a portal, the most important thing is prove beyond reasonable doubt that he's capable of doing so and that he actually did it to facilitate his crimes. Then there is the fact other physical evidence might be left behind like shoe prints or even the purp's DNA. If someone manages to teleport, it can be forensically proven without too much of an issue except of course the question how he did it, but they can determine he did even though unaware of the method through circumstantial evidence.

This becomes stronger the more cases are stacked against the purp with the same M.O. If a lot of evidence is stacked up that the purp indeed is able to travel huge distances in unreasonably short times, it changes from unreasonable to plausible.

If for example, the purp lives in LA, is spotted on a traffic cam, goes to new york to kill someone and gets spotted there on a traffic cam and then an hour later gets spotted in LA again, if it's a single incident people will be baffled. If it happens consistently people will investigate and draw the conclusion of teleportation. This is a somewhat simplified concept but it works in a general sense.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this argumentation is backwards. You, the reader of the question, know that the guy teleported and therefor find an argumentation how one might come to that conclusion. If I understand the question correctly (see my comment asking for clarification), nobody knows that teleportation/portals/whatever are a thing. Imagine someone presented the evidence to you as a real case: "A was photographed in X and then appeared in Y a minute later" and so on. Now imagine a judge had concluded that the guy teleported and sentenced him to prison. That judge would be out of work within the hour. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Sep 20, 2017 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 What if there is irrefutable evidence he did teleport and there was no other possible conclusion one could draw? $\endgroup$
    – Hyfnae
    Sep 20, 2017 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ How would that look like? I would argue the method of transportation is irrelevant $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Sep 20, 2017 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ Assuming that the teleportation is "impossible", either the camera footage in LA or the one in NY must have been doctored up. If other evidence in favour of the perp (etrator) having committed the crime is large or damning enough, the jury could eventually conclude that he tried to manufacture an alibi by planting the LA traffic pictures into the system (hacking?) $\endgroup$
    – Wtrmute
    Sep 21, 2017 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ If it can be shown that it is common for people who look just like the defendant to be in multiple places at essentially the same time, this will simultaneously open up arguments for the prosecution and defense: (1) the fact that someone who looks just like the defendant was seen at some location other than the crime scene doesn't mean the defendant wasn't at the crime scene; (2) the fact that someone who looks just like the defendant was seen at the crime scene doesn't mean the person at the crime scene was the defendant. $\endgroup$
    – supercat
    Sep 21, 2017 at 14:38

In all honesty, this case is likely to not even reach the level of prosecution. If there is evidence to suggest he was no where near the scene of the crime during the time of the crime, then it's likely the prosecutor will call the evidence placing the man at the scene of the crime into question. No good prosecutor moves on evidence they feel is not enough to merit "Beyond a reasonable doubt" needed for conviction. The fact that all evidence collected from the crime scene suggests this man is our guy is still called into doubt by the fact that the man was no where near the scene when it happened is a huge doubt, especially if there is evidence to suggest that he was out of the area at the time.

Assuming the government is not corrupt (the prosecutor recognizes the doubt) and assuming the only person aware of this ability is the accused, then the explanation of "teleportation" is an unreasonable doubt. The prosecution cannot make the assertion that the man did it by teleportation in a jury system without one of 12 people saying "Really... you want me to believe /that/." Proprietorial discretion demands that until evidence of teleportation becomes a demonstrable scientific reality, that can be explained by someone other than the accused (who cannot be compelled to testify on his work) the reasonable Prosecutor will likely never charge the man with a crime in the first place.


If the inventor steals something in the US and returns to say Paris and then makes sure they get a valid alibi with lots of witnesses they would be excluded very early on in any investigation.

It would have to be a very skeptical/determined detective looking over a long history of repeated cases that would ever get this to court.

So the assumption that this would be even be in court means that the inventor has made some big mistake.

Here's a couple ways they could get caught:

  1. (as others have said) If they are caught with whatever is stolen - but they would only be charged with handling stolen property, not doing the stealing
  2. If they got caught before transporting back
  3. Video evidence of the transport, you see the inventor disappear from one camera and appear in another camera at the same time (but this wouldn't happen if as in the question the police could never find the transport)

But none of those is due to the transportation itself, just to the inventor making a separate mistake.

There's reasonable precautions that the inventor can take:

  1. Only teleport to countries where they've never travelled to through regular means - so it's easy to show you've never been there
  2. Be careful with DNA evidence. I guess this means having some clean room to transport from.
  3. Any other precautions that people take who regularly steal things do - so steal in very separate locations so that they don't get linked together
  4. Don't do this too often

So having the teleporter makes crime much easier, but criminals get caught in many other ways - Al Capone for example.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes I think Al Capone is a good example. eventualy if he is careless enough people will understand that he has been upto no good and even if his "primary crimes" can't be properly explained he would probaly fall foul of secondary issues as Al Capne did with his tax $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 21, 2017 at 17:39
  1. He is going to get caught, and likely sooner rather than later.

If he's invented a personal teleportation device and the best use he can come up with is petty larceny for self-enrichment, I'm not going to credit him with a surfeit of imagination, restraint or common sense.

Taking that into account, he's going to make mistakes and get blatant -- and the thing is, when you rob a bank the bank's owners will very badly want to know how precisely you pulled it off, because that will make it much easier to promise their clients and shareholders that it won't happen again. And so will the security company that serviced that bank. And the insurance agency that insured that bank against disasters like that. And so on...

All of the above will be looking very hard because if they answer "I have no idea" then they'll be the ones on the block when someone calls for heads to roll after a disaster like this. Between each other they will eliminate pretty much every alternative -- no one was bribed, none of the physical security measures were disabled, the vault's seals were not breached -- until the only possible remaining answer is that, regardless of how crazy it sounds, "Someone teleported into the vault, stuffed his pockets, and teleported out".

So when, later on, someone on another continent who happens to match the security footage of the robber but has never been out of the country, is found spending money matching the number sequences of the stolen bills, Occam's razor applies, especially if he decided to pull this stunt more than once. Clearly it's possible as it has been done. All the evidence points to him. The prosecution rests.

  1. Professional scientists as expert witnesses will not help his case.

Because every testimony they give about how it's impossible will include the phrase "as far as we currently know". Science is a moving target. Good scientists always grok that there's more to learn. If they see the impossible happen, then clearly it wasn't as impossible as they thought and the proper thing to do is start figuring out what they've overlooked so far.

(This is also why I politely called him an idiot in the prior point: Whichever scientist first figures out how he's doing it and reproduces the process will likely go on to win the Nobel Prize and go down in history as the person who revolutionized particle physics and opened up an entirely new field or two, while your hero gets to serve multiple consecutive prison sentences for everything from grand theft to tresspassing to crossing international borders without a visa.)

  1. Stealing stuff is only the start of his problems.

What did he steal? If it was just money, see the above problem with known bill sequences. If it was other objects of value, he's going to have to fence them somehow. When did this genius scientist first learn the identity of someone willing to fence, say, the Hope Diamond? More importantly, criminals tend not to be terribly trustworthy and even more inclined to act illegally given sufficient inducements than governments. He's not known as a master thief before this, and heists like the ones he's pulling will get a lot of media attention. Someone is going to decide they want to know how he does it (and maybe extend a job offer he won't be allowed to refuse) and they'll have a word with every fence in the area...

  • $\begingroup$ You make some good points.I like your thinking in claiming he lacked restraint, common sense and was an idiot. If he committed serious crimes that line of reasoning must almost certainly be true, so he has a chink in his armour. But he might be clever and imaginative in some ways as well given his amazing invention. In fact he must be mentally deficient, so despite his brilliance his criminal associations and lack of restraint would probably be his undoing in the end. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 21, 2017 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ I’m not sure about “until the only remaining answer is that he teleported in” is convincing. The only reason you know he teleported is because I said so. Without that knowledge I suggest that it would be more likely by several orders of magnitude to assume that there was a flaw, fault, mistake, coincidence or conspiracy of some sort with that evidence. “Teleporting thief” comes way down the list somewhere between “it was converted into dark matter by unknown forces” and “aliens from the 6th dimension stole it”. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 21, 2017 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ "If they see the impossible happen, then clearly it wasn't as impossible as they thought and the proper thing to do is start figuring out what they've overlooked so far." Sure, in laboratories and other places outside the courtroom. But at least in the US since 1993 or so, it is not permitted to speculate or advance theories not generally accepted in the courtroom. You have to establish the science first, then you can argue it in court. Experts can testify to what is accepted science. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2017 at 18:47

The question seems to be: can the trial proceed? Answer: sure! People get tried for actions "beyond current understanding" every day.

Any patent law case, computer fraud, securities fraud, industrial liability, really any highly-technical crime is going to consist of actions that the average cop, the average time-constrained judge, and the average high-school-diploma juror, just will not even attempt to understand.

They'll muddle through. I make no claim about whether they get the right answer, but the resulting decision will have the same legal authority as the ones for the simple cases.


It would not be possible to prove he teleported.

Provided that 1) no one caught him doing it, 2) no one found his device, and 3) no one else has ever done it or thinks it's remotely possible.

Given our current understanding of physics, the odds of creating a teleportation device are so small as to be essentially zero. When the odds of an explanation are that small, any other explanation is more likely, no matter how strained. Modified footage. Contaminated DNA samples. Bribed or brainwashed witnesses. Secret identical twin. Doesn't matter--any of those is more plausible than teleportation. You may find some jurors who would be willing to speculate about it, but once a competent defense attorney gets through with them, I doubt you could get all twelve of them to accept it as fact.

But it might be possible to convict him of the crime.

The problem is that seemingly contradictory evidence goes both ways. The same guy was seen in New York and Los Angeles? One of them must have been someone else. But which one? If our suspect's fingerprints and DNA are found in the bank vault, and he's suddenly flush with cash and spending bills with serial numbers matching the stolen ones, then it sure looks like he did the crime and his alibi was a setup. At the very least, he and his secret twin plotted the crime together.

On the other hand, there might be scenarios where you couldn't prove that he committed the crime. For instance, suppose our suspect was already in prison on an unrelated charge. The guards are positive that he's never escaped, and that it's been the same guy the whole time. They saw him in his cell at 10:00 and again at 10:30. The crime in a distant city was committed at 10:15. In this case, the jury has to weigh which of these is more likely:

  1. The suspect was in prison the whole time and is not guilty of this crime. Someone else committed it and either looks like him (down to similar fingerprints and DNA if necessary) or was trying to frame him for the crime.
  2. The suspect switched places with his secret identical twin, without the prison staff realizing it, committed the crime, and switched back.
  3. The suspect used a secret teleportation device.

I know which one I would pick.

  • $\begingroup$ What a great alibi - I couldn't have done it as I was locked in a prison on a different continent at the time and guards will testify that they saw me 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the crime was committed. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 21, 2017 at 19:39

Contradictory evidence is nothing new

It does happen all the time. For one thing, defense tries really hard to introduce evidence which contradicts prosecution, to muddy the wayer. Also Rashomon effect, or carefully fabricated evidence, or honest misunderstanding. Juries take the pile and try to sort it out.

If they gotcha, they gotcha

That's what physical custody and all those biometrics are all about. They don't want you slipping off with a claim if "mistaken identity" at trial. You'd have to show you have different height, face, eye color, fingerprints, retina, or DNA than the guy they collared and booked.

So you have evidence that a guy who looks like you was in L.A. an hour before. It wouldn't matter if a guy with your fingerprints and DNA was sampled in L.A. an hour before. They got you.

Nobody cares what the method is.

People get convicted of murder all the time without a body. Nobody cares whether they burned the body, buried at sea, dissolved in acid Heisenberg style, or they teleported to the Tunisian desert, Asgard, Earth-43717, forward or back in time, or something weirder.

All that matters is that person is GONE, which for a child or person with community ties means "murdered" in almost every case. If a search for reasons revealed that you had means, motive and opportunity... you're going down.

Method isn't a defense, either

They will go with evidence in front of their eyes over evidence that is more foreign or less certain.

So your "can't be me, I was in L.A. an hour before" falls apart if they have evidence that you were also here. They will never rely on LAPD's evidence over their own.


Would it be possible to prosecute him?


If he gets caught redhanded or with evidence or simply testifies, a contemporary legal system should be able to prosecute him (unless he gets sent to a psychiatry in case of testimony), nothing simpler than that.

However, depending on the nature of his "legal adventures", it might even be possible to prosecute him in certain cases even without direct evidence. All it needs is a single failure (slip of tongue, lost personal artifact, an introduction too much) or a very convincing correlation of data points (granted, this would require a very thorough amount of research on at least a large subset of cases).

Some crimes, like having no valid visa, would require special circumstances to be revealed. It basically means he has to get into a situation where he is unable to procure a valid visa, like getting caught in a traffic accident and being questioned by the police. Or he could have a (public or recorded) personal meeting after which the government could research that he has no visa and there are no recorded border crossings of him (ouch!).

Other crimes, like robbing a bank, especially if done repeatedly, might be possible in case there is any indication of his involvement. A single DNA trace or fingerprint would not be enough, but both of that and his figure being similar to the one on camera might get him at least an interview. If done multiple times, even if he has some alibi for each occurrence and he doesn't get caught with other evidence, there might still be a correlation between his crimes and him (like: he has been at the banks 2 weeks in advance to scout them, or the only banks to get robbed are the ones he has no account, or ...). If the correlation is strong enough, it might be enough to prosecute him even despite his alibis.

What can make his prosecution easier is if he somehow reveals his ability to teleport (e.g. appearing inside a bank lobby without any trace of how he got there or left afterwards). If the investigators somehow become aware of that tidbit, they will scrutinize their findings much harder for indirect evidence (like pollen in the air from where he teleported), and any possible alibi will loose credibility if he can't validate he's there in person.

Of course, there's always a chance his alibi might disproved anyways (e.g. "I went shopping at XY at 21:10 and after that I was walking to Z where I arrived at 21:40, where the distance between those to locations would take 30 mins of walking" could fail if he managed to miss an event on that route, like getting recorded on a camera).

However, ideally he would want to avoid any action that would even cause the prosecutors to even look after him. If he only robs banks half a globe away while never being even in the same or neighboring countries, always with explanations for how he got in and out, it would be hard to even fall under the radar of the responsible detectives. After all, international crime investigation would require a high degree of cooperation between the countries involved...

TLDR: If he is smart about his crime(s) and target selection and doesn't slip up during the execution, it would be very difficult to prosecute him. However, tiny slip ups during execution or "dumb" crime(s)/targets can lead to a prosecution.


I would think they have every chance of being found not guilty provided they could establish a strong 'practical' alibi -

  1. They were having lunch with a notable figure in front of witnesses (the more the better);
  2. They went to the lavatory for 5 minutes. During this time they established the portal, carried out the crime a substantial distance away, and by substantial I mean a distance that could not be covered by any 'known' transportation method in that time and returned;
  3. They gave no indication of having carried out the crime when they return to the previous engagement.

Evidence for the prosecution is likely to be in the form of witnesses, DNA or fingerprints all of which have a probability of error that can be argued to apply in this case.

Where they could be found guilty is if they have evidence on them that can only have come from the crime scene.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree. If he's clever it would be very hard. I suspect his final undoing would be when he became too careless. For example if he committed a crime then went to get a sandwich before teleporting back. Only to be run over on the way or to find the device had been stolen, moved or damaged in some way on his return. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Sep 21, 2017 at 16:39

I will try to draw together the best answers as I see it from the posts made to date.

The main barriers facing the authorities would be detection, capture and conviction. The fact that teleportation is so unlikely would at least seriously hamper each of these.

Two very important aspects that need to be clarified are the ability of the Teleporter and the seriousness / regularity of the crimes.

Petty crimes Assuming the crimes are petty such as avoiding immigration controls or small scale theft, there is little or no chance that the Teleporter would ever be caught out side of the most serious blunders on his part (see below).

Major crimes Assuming his crimes are major like rape, murder and grand larceny and are carried out on a regular basis, then the situation might be different. Given the enormity of the discovery of teleportation and the imbecilic use that he is making of it, it is reasonable to suppose that although he might be a genius, he also has serious mental deficiencies and might be expected to lack common sense, restraint and be generally careless. In this case there is a chance that he would eventually be detected and caught. Serious blunders might include:

Indirect prosecution Stealing traceable property such as paintings, new bank notes, high value gem stones or similar. In these cases the teleportation would be immaterial as he would eventually stand trial for handling stolen goods rather than stealing the goods and would have difficulty in explaining how the goods had come into his possession.

Capture and prosecution by reason of teleportation failure He might foolishly visit the same location repeatedly and be caught red handed before he could teleport. Or he might carelessly wander too far from the device only to find that it had been stolen or damaged while he was away or he might be unable to reach it if he was injured in car accident (for instance). In these cases he would also likely be prosecuted as the teleportation device is again irrelevant.

Capture and prosecution by aided by notoriety He might simply be so careless that even if he can’t be caught he accidentally gives away his secret. After enough people and news teams have captured footage of his teleportation “trick” there would be a media sensation and his notoriety would be such that he would eventually be identified.

Having been identified he will either have to go on the run or stand trial. This is perhaps the hardest case and the most interesting one. If he stands trial then it is likely there would be conflicting evidence, however because of his notoriety (as the vanishing man or whatever) he might find it hard to get people to vouch for his being at a locality and any jury might be more willing to reject any claims based on sightings given the strength of the other evidence.

Going on the run If he went on the run he would have access to anywhere on earth in seconds so might escape capture for some time, but would eventually fall foul of the teleportation failure case as described above and would be convicted.

Government involvement Initially any Government would be dismissive, but at some point the level of his notoriety would reach a level sufficient to trigger alarm bells and National Security fears. At such a point the Government would be forced to take action. They might just assassinate him (out of scope) or try to capture him to learn his secrets which would happen faster with coordinated Government action and faster again if he had a criminal record already. When he was caught the Government would have serious issues to consider in terms of how to proceed. They would want to obtain the device and understand how it worked. But they might also be concerned that he was working for a foreign Government or had an accomplice. Such a situation would complicate matters further as it might prover impossible to hold him in any prison if a third party could open a portal into his prison cell and release him.

The evil genius with restraint and common sense Assuming he did have common sense, restraint and was very careful, but still insisted on committing serious crimes (highly unlikely as described above), it would be very difficult or impossible to stop him, catch him or successfully convict him. He would always avoid repeat visits, would always take precautions concerning an alibi, would go in different disguises, would avoid leaving finger prints or DNA and would teleport to selected locations that minimised the risk of capture by reason of teleportation failure.

There are many other potential situations involving various combinations and degrees of motivation and evidence. The outcomes would be even harder to distinguish and even more open to opinion based answers.


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