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Civil Death

17 Apr 2016

Civil Death

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Civil death (Latin: civiliter mortuus) is 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.

Civil death (Latin: civiliter mortuus)[1] is 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.