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. 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.
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. 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.
Historically outlawry, that is, declaring a person as an outlaw, was a common form of civil death.
Notes and references
- "CIVILITER MORTUUS : on Law Dictionary". www.law-dictionary.org.
- See e.g. Interdiction of F.T.E., 594 So.2d 480 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1992).
- Manza, Jeff and Uggen, Christopher. Punishment and Democracy: Disenfranchisement of Nonincarcerated Felons in the United States. 'Perspectives on Politics.' Page 492. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3688812
- Article "Death, Civil;" Encyclopædia Americana, 1830 ed, page 138
- Greenhouse, Linda (July 29, 2010). "Voting Behind Bars". The New York Times.
- Gabriel J. Chin, The New Civil Death: Rethinking Punishment in the Era of Mass Conviction, 160 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1789 (2012)