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|Criminal trials and convictions|
|Rights of the accused|
|Related areas of law|
Life imprisonment (also known as imprisonment for life, life in prison, a life sentence, lifelong incarceration, or life incarceration) is any sentence of imprisonment for a crime under which convicted persons are to remain in prison either for the rest of their natural life or until paroled. Crimes for which a person could receive this sentence include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, blasphemy, terrorism, severe child abuse, rape, espionage, treason, high treason, drug dealing, drug trafficking, drug possession, human trafficking, severe cases of fraud, severe cases of financial crimes, aggravated criminal damage in English law, and aggravated cases of arson, kidnapping, burglary, or robbery which result in death or grievous bodily harm, piracy, aircraft hijacking, and in certain cases genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, certain war crimes or any three felonies in case of three strikes law.
Life imprisonment can, in certain cases, also be imposed for traffic offenses causing death, as a maximum term. Canada and some U.S. states allow judges to impose life imprisonment for such offenses.
This sentence does not exist in all countries. Portugal was the first country in the world to abolish life imprisonment by the prison reforms of Sampaio e Melo in 1884. However, where life imprisonment is a possible sentence, there may also be formal mechanisms to request parole after a certain period of imprisonment. This means that a convict could be entitled to spend the rest of the sentence (until that individual dies) outside prison. Early release is usually conditional on past and future conduct, possibly with certain restrictions or obligations. In contrast, when a fixed term of imprisonment has ended, the convict is free. The length of time served and the conditions surrounding parole vary greatly for each jurisdiction. However, the time until being entitled to apply for parole does not necessarily tell anything about the actual date of parole being granted.
Some technically finite sentences are handed out, especially in the United States, that exceed the human maximum life span and are therefore seen as de facto life sentences. Additionally, for particularly heinous crimes, courts will sometimes add additional years onto the sentence, in addition to life imprisonment, in order to ensure that no amount of good behavior could ever result in the person being set free. For example, Ariel Castro, who kidnapped Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus from the streets of Cleveland, was sentenced in 2013 to "life, plus 1,000 years" for the 937 criminal counts including kidnapping, rape, and murder. Courts in South Africa have handed out at least two sentences that have exceeded a century (to Moses Sithole, whose sentence exceeds two millennia, and Eugene de Kock).
Few countries worldwide allow for minors to be given lifetime sentences that have no provision for eventual release; these include Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina (only over the age of 16), Australia, Belize, Brunei, Cuba, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and the United States. According to a University of San Francisco Law School study, only the U.S. had minors serving such sentences in 2008. In 2009, Human Rights Watch estimated that there were 2,589 youth offenders serving life without parole in the U.S. The United States leads in life sentences (both adults and minors), at a rate of 50 people per 100,000 residents imprisoned for life.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that sentencing minors to life without parole, automatically (as the result of a statute) or as the result of a judicial decision, for crimes other than intentional homicide, violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishments", in the case of Graham v. Florida.
Graham v. Florida was a significant case in juvenile justice. In Jacksonville, Florida, Terrence J. Graham tried to rob a restaurant along with three adolescent accomplices. During the robbery one of Graham's accomplices had a metal bar that he used to hit the restaurant manager twice in the head. Once arrested, Graham was charged with attempted armed robbery and armed burglary with assault/battery. The maximum sentence he faced from these charges was life without the possibility of parole, and the prosecutor wanted to charge him as an adult. During the trial, Graham pleaded guilty to the charges, resulting in three years of probation, one year of which had to be served in jail. Since he had been awaiting trial in jail, he already served six months and therefore was released after six additional months.
Within six months of his release, Graham was involved in another robbery. Since he violated the conditions of his probation, his probation officer reported to the trial court about his probation violations a few weeks before Graham turned 18 years old. It was a different judge presiding over his trial for the probation violations a year later. While Graham denied any involvement of the robbery, he did admit to fleeing from the police. The trial court found that Graham violated his probation by "committing a home invasion robbery, possessing a firearm, and associating with persons engaged in criminal activity", and sentenced him to 15 years for the attempted armed robbery plus life imprisonment for the armed burglary. The life sentence Graham received meant he had a life sentence without the possibility of parole, "because Florida abolished their parole system in 2003".
Graham's case was presented to the United States Supreme Court, with the question of whether juveniles should receive life without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases. The Justices eventually ruled that such a sentence violated the juvenile's 8th Amendment rights, protecting them from punishments that are disproportionate to the crime committed, resulting in the abolition of life sentences without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases for juveniles.
In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Miller v. Alabama in a 5–4 decision and with the majority opinion written by Associate Justice Elena Kagan that mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional. The majority opinion stated that barring a judge for considering mitigating factors and other information, such as age, maturity, and family and home environment violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Sentences of life in prison without parole can still be given to juveniles for aggravated first-degree murder, as long as the judge considers the circumstances of the case.
Reform or abolition
In a number of countries, life imprisonment has been effectively abolished. Many of the countries whose governments have abolished both life imprisonment and indefinite imprisonment have been culturally influenced or colonized by Spain or Portugal , and have written such prohibitions into their current constitutional laws (including Portugal itself but not Spain).
A number of European countries have abolished all forms of indefinite imprisonment, including Serbia, Croatia, and Spain, which set the maximum sentence at 40 years (for each conviction, which in practice keeps the life imprisonment principçe under another name (imprisonment for indeterminate/indefinite time, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which sets the maximum sentence at 45 years, and also Portugal, which abolished all forms of life imprisonment in 1884 and sets the maximum sentence at 25 years, while Norway (de jure) and Spain (de facto from 1993 until February 2018, the question being now debated of reintroducing de jure life imprisonment, its habitual practice before it became a democracy in 1978-1983) have abolished life imprisonment but retain, other forms of indefinite imprisonment.
In Europe, the only countries in which the law expressly provides for life sentences without the possibility of parole are some constituent parts of the United Kingdom (England, which includes Wales since this is not a devolved competency and the legal system of England is still in force in Wales), the Netherlands and Bulgaria.
In South and Central America, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic have all abolished life imprisonment. The maximum sentence is 75 years in El Salvador, 60 years in Colombia, 50 years in Costa Rica and Panama, 40 years in Honduras, 35 years in Ecuador, 30 years in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Venezuela, and 25 years in Paraguay. Brazil has a maximum sentence of 30 years under statutory law and only capital punishment is provided by law for crimes committed during wartime (for military crimes such as treason, desertion, and mutiny) are allowed in the Constitution.
In the United States, a 2009 report by the Sentencing Project suggested that life imprisonment without parole should be abolished in the country. U.S. law enforcement officials opposed its proposed abolition.
Pope Francis proposed the abolition of both capital punishment and life imprisonment in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law. He also stated that life imprisonment, recently removed from the Vatican penal code, is just a variation of the death penalty.
Overview by jurisdiction
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Summary by country
|Jurisdiction (link to details)||Life imprisonment||Minimum to serve before eligibility for requesting parole||Maximum length of sentence (under life)||Indefinite sentence (excl. preventive or psychiatric detainment)||Mandatory sentence||Other crimes with possible life sentence||Under age of 18 (or 21)||Pardon, amnesty, other release||Death penalty|
|Afghanistan||Yes||Never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, violation of Islamic law||Treason, drug trafficking||Yes||By President||Yes|
|Albania||Yes, only for men above age 18||25 years||Maximum 30 years for all women||??||Murder with aggravating factor||Terrorism, war crimes||under 18: max. 20 years' imprisonment||Only in extraordinary circumstances may the convicted serving life imprisonment be released on parole||No|
|Andorra||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Argentina||Yes||20 years or never||None||Yes||Murder with aggravating circumstances; murder of a relative; murder of and/or by a police officer; treason||Serial rape; Gender homicide||??||By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)||No|
|Armenia||Yes||20 years||15 years for the first murder conviction, 20–30 years on a second murder conviction and life on a third murder conviction||No||No||Aggravated murder, collaborating with Azerbaijani armed forces, treason||??||By President||No|
|Austria||Yes||15 years (Imprisonment for a definite period)
or never (Imprisonment for lifetime, when clemency is rejected by President)
|None||Yes||Genocide||Murder, high level drug dealing, Nazi activism, production or distribution of chemical warfare agents to be used in armed conflict; abduction, robbery, rape and statutory rape if the crime causes the victim's death, sea and air piracy and arson if the crime causes the death of a large number of people||under 16: max. 10 years' imprisonment
16–17: max. 15 years' imprisonment
18–20: max. 20 years' imprisonment
|Australia||Yes||10 years, 20 years, 25 years, or never; individually set by judge||None||Yes||Murder of police officer or other public official, murder in South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, aircraft hijacking||Treason, terrorism, drug trafficking, rape, serious child sex offences||under 18: must have minimum term set||Compassionate release by Governor of state/Administrator of territory, or Governor-General||No |
|Azerbaijan||Yes, but only for men aged 18–65||25 years||15 Years for a single murder (up to 20 years for several crimes)||No||Murder, terrorism||Crimes against State, War crimes||No||By President||No|
|Belarus||Yes but only for men aged between the age of 18 and 65 (same as Russia)||25 years||15 years and 25 years (separate sentences; 15 years for men under 18 and 25 years for men at the age of 65 and over as well as women)||??||??||??||Maximum 15 years||By courts||Yes (only for men aged 18–65)|
|Belgium||Yes||15 years (no previous conviction or below 3 years), 19 years (previous conviction below 5 years), or 23 years (previous conviction 5 years or more)||None||No||None||Murder||
||Parole by Conditional Release Commission or pardon by King||No|
|No||Murder, treason, terrorism||Culpable homicide, rape, robbery, dacoity||??||??||Yes|
|Bolivia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||No||Varies, depending on sentence||45 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Brazil||No ||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No||No life imprisonment sentence||Yes, but only in times of war|
|Bulgaria||Yes||20 years or never||None||Yes||None||Aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, treason, espionage, war crimes, genocide, desertion in wartime||
|Cambodia||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, genocide, crimes against humanity, terrorism||Drug trafficking||Yes||By King||No|
|Canada||Yes||25 years minimum for 1st degree murder or high treason; 10 years minimum for 2nd degree murder (consecutive sentencing may extend parole ineligibility beyond 25 years in multiple murder cases)||None||Yes||High treason, 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder||Various crimes including armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and most offenses resulting in death||14+: Yes, but only if juvenile is sentenced as adult||Yes, but only through royal prerogative of mercy||Abolished in 1976|
|Cape Verde||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Colombia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||60 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Costa Rica||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Chile||Yes||20 years; 40 years for military crimes||None||Yes||None||Treason, kidnapping with homicide or rape, rape with homicide, parricide, robbery with homicide or rape||
||By President||Yes, but only in times of war|
|People's Republic of China||Yes||13 years of the original sentence having been actually served. Never in extremely serious corruption cases.||None||No||No||Various||Yes||By courts and by President||Yes|
|Croatia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||Abolished in 1991|
|Cuba||Yes||30 years or never||None||No||none||Murder, drug traffiking, Aggravated Robbery||Yes||By President||Yes|
|Cyprus||Yes||20 years||None||Yes||Premeditated murder||Terrorism, treason, drug trafficking||??||By President||No|
||30 years||No||None||Some cases of murder, public endangerment, treason, terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, use of forbidden combat device or forbidden combat tactics, war crimes, persecution of population, misuse of international symbols||15–18: max. 10 years' imprisonment||By President||No|
|Denmark||Yes||12 years||None||Yes||No||Treason, espionage during wartime, use of force against the parliament, terrorism, arson under circumstances that are life-threatening, hijacking of vehicles, willful release of nuclear substances, murder||Maximum 16 years||After 12 years entitled to request to Minister of Justice; granted by King or Queen of Denmark||No|
|Dominican Republic||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||
||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Ecuador||No||Varies, depending on sentence||35 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|El Salvador||No (Except in wartime)||Varies, depending on sentence||75 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||Yes, but only in times of war|
|Egypt||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, rape, kidnapping, terrorism||Drug offenses||Yes||By president||Yes|
|Estonia||Yes||30 years||None||Yes (de facto)||None||Some cases of murder, some cases of handling drugs, crimes against humanity, genocide, acts of war against civilians, terrorism, violence against the independence of Estonia, causing an explosion using nuclear energy||Maximum length 10 years||Pardon by president||No|
|Finland||Yes||12 years for court release; any time for presidential pardon||None||Yes||Murder||High treason, espionage, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, homicidal terrorist act||
||By president, Helsinki Court of Appeal||No|
|France||Yes||Varies, depending on sentence;
Up to 30 years if sentencing didn't include an indefinite sentence
|30 years for a single murder without additional circumstances, drug trafficking, kidnapping, rape||Yes, but only if decided by court at sentencing||None||Murder, mass murder, rape, aggravated torture, aggravated treason, crimes against humanity, war crimes||
||By president, with countersignature from prime minister and ministry of justice||No|
|Germany||Yes, only for someone over the age of 21 (in very rare cases extremely dangerous criminals can get life sentences above the age of 18)||*Before 1977: never (except with presidential pardon). Ruled unconstitutional by Federal Constitutional Court
||None||No||Aggravated murder, genocide resulting in death, crimes against humanity resulting in death, war crimes against persons resulting in death||See details||
||By Federal President or Minister-President||No (abolished in West Germany by the Constitution since 23 May 1949). Abolished by law in West Germany in 1953 and in East Germany in 1987.|
|Georgia||Yes||20 years||None||No||Murder||Terrorism, treason||??||By president||No|
|Greece||Yes||Individually set by judge||16 years for a single murder, 20–32 years for two murders||Yes||Multiple murder, mass murder, terrorism||??||Maximum 20 years||By President||No|
|Guatemala||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||Yes, but only in times of war|
|Hungary||Yes||20–40 years or never||None||Yes||Murder, after 3 violent crimes||Genocide, high treason||under 18: max. 15 years' imprisonment||By president||No|
|Honduras||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Hong Kong, China||Yes||Individually set by judge||None||Yes||Murder, genocide involving killing||Manslaughter, drug trafficking, treason, incitement to mutiny, piratical acts, rape, arson||Must have minimum term set||By Chief Executive of Hong Kong, under the recommendation of Long Term Prison Sentences Review Board||No|
|Iceland||No||Varies, depending on sentence||20 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|India||Yes||25 years or never||None||Yes||None||Kidnapping, murder, dacoity, rape, sedition||Yes||May be pardoned or reprieved by exercise of prerogative clemency powers of the President or the Governor||Yes|
|Indonesia||Yes||Never||20 years,can longer if sentenced by more than 1 court||Yes||None||Premeditated Murder,Murder committed during commission of felony,Rape of child resulting in death or serious injury,Gang Robbery causing death or serious injury,Human Traffiking resulting in death||under 18 : maximum of 10 years.||By President (can reduced by remission after served at least 5 Years)||Yes|
|Ireland||Yes||12–30 years or never; individually set by judge||None||Yes||Murder, treason, some serious injuries, etc. (see details)||See details||??||By President||No|
|Israel||Yes||Never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||Kidnapping child with intent to murder||Yes||By president usually after 30 years||Yes, but only in times of war|
|Italy||Yes||21 years, 26 years, or never||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, mafia association, drug trafficking, human trafficking, treason||Aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, firearm trafficking||under 16: max. 20 years' imprisonment||By president||No|
|Jamaica||Yes||10–30 years or never; individually set by judge||None||Yes||??||??||??||??||Yes|
|Japan||Yes but only for someone over the age of 20 (in very rare cases extremely dangerous criminals may get life sentences above the age of 18)||10 years or never||None||Yes||Varies by prefecture (Murder)||Death sentence due to foreign aggression||Yes||By Emperor||Yes|
|Jordan||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, espionage||Drug trafficking||Yes||By King||Yes|
|Kazakhstan||Yes, only for men above age 18||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||Maximum 20 years||By President||Yes, but only in times of war|
|Kiribati||Yes||25 years or never||None||??||??||??||??||??||No|
|Kyrgyzstan||Yes||30 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President||No|
|Kosovo||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Latvia||Yes||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, treason, terrorism, war crimes||Drug offenses, rape, robbery, sabotage, crimes against humanity||??||By President||No|
|Lebanon||Yes||10 years||None||No||Aggravated murder, terrorism, treason||Drug trafficking and manufacturing||Yes||By President||Yes|
|Lithuania||Yes||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President||Abolished in 1998|
|Liechtenstein||Yes||15 years||None||No||None||Murder, terrorism||??||Pardon by prince||No|
|Luxembourg||Yes||15 years||None||Yes||Murder, treason||Terrorism||??||By Grand Duke||No|
|Macau, China||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years (30 in exceptional circumstances)||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Macedonia||Yes||15 years||None||Yes||Aggravated Murder, terrorism||Rape, robbery, drug offenses, crimes against humanity||Yes||By President||No|
|Malaysia||Yes||20 years or never||None||Yes||Murder, drug offenses, serious firearms/ammunition/explosive offenses, terrorism, rape, attack on monarch, violence to parliament, treason||??||Detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong / Ruler / Yang di-Pertua Negeri||By Yang di-Pertuan Agong / Federal Pardons Board or Ruler / Yang di-Pertua Negeri / State Pardons Board||Yes|
|Malta||Yes||Never; only pardon by President||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President||No|
|Mexico||Yes; only in the state of Chihuahua for murder involving kidnapping||Varies, depending on sentence||Maximum 60 years (70 years if convicted of murder involving kidnapping); in the state of Chihuahua, murder involving kidnapping merits life sentence||No||Murder involving kidnapping||???||??||???||No|
|Moldova||Yes||35 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By President||No|
|Monaco||Yes||15 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity||??||??||By Prince||No|
|Montenegro||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Morocco||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, treason||Drug trafficking and manufacturing||Yes||By King / Queen||Yes|
|Mozambique||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Nepal||Yes||20 years||None||No||Murder, terrorism||??||??||By president||No|
|The Netherlands||Yes||Never||None||Yes (de facto)||None||Attack on monarch, violence to parliament, several facts constituting an offence resulting in death of (a) person(s) (not manslaughter), manslaughter in combination with other facts, facts with intent to terrorism, treason||
||By monarch (almost never granted)||No|
|New Zealand||Yes||Individually set by judge, but not less than 10 years||None||Yes||Treason||Murder (mandatory unless manifestly unjust), manslaughter, terrorism, aircraft hijacking, Class A drug dealing||under 18: must have minimum term set||Sentence may be reduced or pardon granted by the Governor General (Rarely done)||No|
|Nicaragua||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Nigeria||Yes||Never||None||Yes||??||??||No life imprisonment sentence||??||Yes|
|North Korea||Yes||15 years||None||Yes (de facto and de jure)||Murder, espionage, treason||??||Yes||By president||Yes|
|Norway||No||Varies, depending on sentence||21 years (can be extended indefinitely if the criminal poses a danger to society at the end of served time); 30 years for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity||Yes||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence, people over age of 15 can be sentenced by normal laws or to child protection||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Pakistan||Yes||25 years||None||??||??||??||??||By President||Yes|
|Panama||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Paraguay||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Peru||Yes||35 years or never||None||Yes||Murder with aggravated circumstances, terrorism, treason, sexual relations with under 10 year olds||Murder with aggravated circumstances, terrorism, treason, sexual relations with under 10 year olds, serious kidnapping, violent rape, attempted murder||??||By President||Yes, but only in times of war|
|Poland||Yes||25 years or more; individually set by judge||None||No||None||Genocide, war crimes, high treason, murder, aggravated serious bodily harm, attempted assassination of Polish president||under 18: max. 25 years' imprisonment||Pardon by president, amnesty by act of parliament (last amnesty in 1989)||No|
|Portugal||No||Varies, depending on sentence||25 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Romania||Yes||20 years||None||No; replaced by 25 years' imprisonment at age 60||Genocide during wartime, inhumane treatment during wartime||Treason and other grave crimes against the state, extremely grave murder, capitulation, desertion on the battlefield, crimes against peace or humanity||under 18: max. 20 years' imprisonment||Pardon by President, amnesty by act of Parliament||No|
|Republic of the Congo||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Russian Federation||Yes, but only for men between 18 and 65 years.||25 years or 30 years (25 years for murder without any additional circumstances and 30 years for murder with exceptional circumstances (for men aged 65 and over as well as women) unless multiple murders are committed for the offender to be liable for life imprisonment)||25 years or 30 years; 25 years for a single murder and also for woman, 30 years for a single murder with exceptional circumstances for men aged 65 years and over as well as women.||No||No||See details||under 18: max. 10 years' imprisonment||By President||Yes, but under moratorium|
|Saudi Arabia||Yes||Never||None||No||Apostasy from Islam, drug trafficking, willful killing||Homosexuality, witchcraft||Yes||By King||Yes|
|Serbia||No||Varies, depending on sentence||40 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Singapore||Yes||20 years||None||Yes||Kidnapping for ransom||Drug trafficking, gun crime||Prisoner detained at the President's discretion||??||Yes|
|Slovakia||Yes||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, terrorism, treason||Crimes against humanity, war crimes||
|Slovenia||Yes||25 years||None||Yes||Murder, treason||Terrorism, drug offenses, crimes against humanity||
|South Africa||Yes||10, 15, or 25 years||None||No||Certain murder, rape and robbery||??||??||??||No|
|South Korea||Yes||10 years or never||None||No||High treason, robbery (rape) with deadly outcomes, arson, murder of relative, etc.||Counterfeiting or falsification of currency||Maximum 10 years (for certain violent crimes 20 years)||By President and requires agreement of National Assembly||Yes|
|Spain||Yes||18 to 22 years, depending on the crime||20 years for a single murder (15 years if it's the perpetrator's first offence), 40 years for a single murder involving terrorism (30 years if it's the perpetrator's first offence)||Yes||Murder of a minor, rape and murder, terrorism, multiple murder, magnicide, genocide, wartime sexual violence||No||By Cabinet||No|
|Sweden||Yes||18 years or never, but parole hearing may be held after 10 years served, thus fixing a much later date for release on parole||None||Yes||None||Murder, kidnapping, arson, sabotage, devastation,[vague] hijacking, espionage, terror crimes, rebellion, endangering the public health by spread of contagion or poison, disloyalty when negotiating with foreign powers, trading in anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs or chemical or nuclear weapons, unlawful nuclear explosion, treason, genocide; in wartime only: mutiny, insubordination, undermining the will to fight, desertion, unauthorised capitulation, negligence of war preparations and negligence of battle duty; attempts, accessories, accomplices and incitements of all the above crimes might also be punished with life imprisonment.||
||By the District Court of Örebro (parole hearing). Or by the Government (pardon).||No|
|Switzerland||Yes||10 years or 15 years; individually set by judge||None||Yes||None||Aggravated murder, aggravated hostage-taking, genocide, endangering the independence of the country||
||By Federal Assembly (Parliament)||No|
|Suriname||No||Varies, depending on sentence||50 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)||Yes||25 years||None||Third violent crime||Aggravated murder, hard drug trafficking||Many violent crimes causing death, etc.||Banned by Criminal Code||By President||Yes|
|Tajikistan||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism||Treason||Yes||By President||Yes|
|Thailand||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, drug trafficking and manufacturing||Kidnapping, sex offenses||Yes||By King||Yes|
|Tunisia||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism, treason, hijacking, espionage, attempting to overthrow the government||Drug trafficking||Yes||By President||Yes|
|Turkey||Yes||Life imprisonment: 24 years (30 if organized crime), multiple life imprisonments: 30 years (34 if organized crime), aggravated life imprisonment: 30 years (36 if organized crime), multiple aggravated life imprisonments: 36 years (40 if organized crime), or never (aggravated life imprisonment for terrorism)||None||Yes||Murder with special cirucumstances, treason, terrorism||Sexual offences, military and political crimes||Maximum 24 years||By President in case of permanent illness, rehabilitation, disability or decrepitude||No|
|Turkmenistan||Yes||Never||None||No||Murder, terrorism||Treason||Yes||By President||No|
|Ukraine||Yes||20 years||None||No||Murder with aggravating circumstances||??||Maximum 15 years||By President||No|
| United Kingdom:
England and Wales
|Yes||Individually set by judge (maximum whole life order)||None||Yes||Murder||See details||
||By Act of Parliament (in accordance with the principle of parliamentary sovereignty) or royal prerogative of mercy (delegated to the Lord Chancellor)||No|
| United Kingdom:
|Yes||Individually set by judge||Between 17 and 30 years for a single murder without any additional circumstances||Yes||Murder with additional circumstances, two or more murders, attempted murder, two or more counts rape||Any other Common Law offence.||Under 8 : Presumed not capable of committing a criminal offence.
Under 18 : Detention for an indeterminate period.
|Compassionate release by Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Scottish Government); amnesty by royal decree (by means of the royal prerogative of mercy) alone or with Act of Parliament.||No|
| United Kingdom:
|Yes||Individually set by judge||None||No||Murder, rape||Robbery||??||General release through a referendum-based agreement in 1998 (became applicable in 3 cases: i, ii, iii). The royal prerogative of mercy or an Act of Parliament (in accordance with the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty) can be used to grant amnesty like the rest of the UK.||No|
|United States||Yes||any minimum term from 15 years, or never (depending on crime and state)||None||Yes||Varies by state||Varies by state||Yes (de jure)||By president or governor of a state (depending on jurisdiction)||Yes (depending on state)|
|Uruguay||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Uzbekistan||Yes, only for men aged between 18 and 60 years||25 years or never||30 years for women and men over the age of 60||No||None||Aggravated murder, terrorism||Maximum 10 years||By President||No|
|Vatican City||No||Varies, depending on sentence||35 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence (for serious offenses, the Vatican often works with Italian authorities; certain offenses are pardonable or reducible by the Pope and/or ecclesiastical or civil Vatican courts)||No|
|Venezuela||No||Varies, depending on sentence||30 years||No||No life imprisonment sentence||No life imprisonment sentence||??||No life imprisonment sentence||No|
|Vietnam||Yes||Never||None||Yes (de jure)||??||??||
- Incapacitation (penology)
- Indefinite imprisonment
- List of prison deaths
- Use of capital punishment by country
- "Penalties for Drunk Driving Vehicular Homicide" (PDF) (PDF). Mothers Against Drunk Driving. May 2012.
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- Brazil's Constitution prohibits the death penalty with a saving allowing the death penalty in wartime, if the state of war is duly declared by Congress (art. 5, item XLVII, subitem "a)"); the Constitution's next line (art. 5, item XLVII, subitem "b)"), prohibits life sentences. The clause prohibiting life imprisonment does not contain a saving similar to the death penalty clause, and thus life sentences are not allowed even in wartime. It is unclear, however, if the Presidential power of mercy, that allows the President to pardon or commute a penal sentence, could be used to reduce a death penalty imposed in wartime, transforming it into a sentence of life imprisonment.
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- Criminal Records Act, R.S. 1995, c. 22, s. 6(1), as amended by R.S., 1985, c. 1 (4th Supp.), s. 45(F) and R.S.C., 1992, c. 22, s. 4; and R.S.C., 2000, c. 1, s. 1(F) and R.S.C., 2010, c. 5, s. 2 and R.S.C, 2012, c. 1, s. 115. (Criminal Records Act at CanLii)
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- The court may decide that only the time in less-than-maximum security prison counts for the purposes of parole and that the convict must serve at least ten years in maximum security. A record of good behavior is needed for transfer to lower security in which 20 years must be served then.
- Danish Criminal Act section 41
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- sec. 57a(1) German Criminal Code Strafgesetzbuch
- sec. 211(1) German Criminal Code
- sec. 6(1) German Criminal Code on crimes against international law and war crimes Völkerstrafgesetzbuch
- sec. 7(1) German Criminal Code on crimes against international law and war crimes
- sec. 8(1) German Criminal Code on crimes against international law and war crimes
- A person between the ages of 18 and 21 can be tried before a juvenile court "Jugendgericht" (which happens in almost all cases concerning minors) or an adult court, which is determined by the intellectual development of the accused and the severity of the crime itself.
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- § 117 Slovak Criminal Code
- § 89 Criminal Code of Slovenia (Kazenski zakonik, KZ), temporarily pursuant as per § 375 of (the new) Criminal Code of Slovenia (Kazenski zakonik; KZ-1)
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- art. 112 Swiss Criminal Code
- art. 185 Swiss Criminal Code
- art. 264 Swiss Criminal Code
- art. 266 Swiss Criminal Code
- (in French)art. 25 Juvenile Criminal Code
- art. 173 al. 1 let. k Constitution of the Swiss Confederation
- http://www.gov.scot/Publications/1999/05/ee951c69-5631-4322-a3f9-d33837d34433/Q/pno/2 Life Sentence Prisoners in Scotland
- This is subject to sentencing guidelines applicable to each offence and to limits on the sentences which can be applied in courts dealing with minor offences.
- http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/02/6001/57 Criminal Proceedings in Scotland 2014-15
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