Civil death

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Civil death (Latin: civiliter mortuus)[1] is a term that refers to the loss of all or almost all civil rights by a person due to a conviction for a felony or due to an act by the government of a country that results in the loss of civil rights. It is usually inflicted on persons convicted of crimes against the state or adults determined by a court to be legally incompetent because of mental disability.[2]

In medieval Europe, felons lost all civil rights upon their conviction. This civil death often led to actual death, since anyone could kill and injure a felon with impunity.[3] Under the Holy Roman Empire, a person declared civilly dead was referred to as vogelfrei, ‘free as a bird’, and could even be killed since they were completely outside the law.[4]

Historically outlawry, that is, declaring a person as an outlaw, was a common form of civil death.[4]

In the US, the disenfranchisement of felons[5] has been called a form of civil death, as has being subjected to collateral consequences in general.[6]

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Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.law-dictionary.org/CIVILITER+MORTUUS.asp?q=CIVILITER+MORTUUS
  2. ^ See e.g. Interdiction of F.T.E., 594 So.2d 480 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1992).
  3. ^ Manza, Jeff and Uggen, Christopher. Punishment and Democracy: Disenfranchisement of Nonincarcerated Felons in the United States. 'Perspectives on Politics.' Page 492. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3688812
  4. ^ a b Article "Death, Civil;" Encyclopædia Americana, 1830 ed, page 138
  5. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (July 29, 2010). "Voting Behind Bars". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Gabriel J. Chin, The New Civil Death: Rethinking Punishment in the Era of Mass Conviction, 160 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1789 (2012)

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