civil death | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Civil death is the loss of certain legal rights and privileges resulting from a criminal conviction, such as the right to vote or hold public office.

Civil death is a legal concept that has been in use in various jurisdictions around the world. It is a legal punishment that strips convicted criminals of certain civil rights and privileges, sometimes permanently, as a result of their criminal convictions.

Civil death can be thought of as a type of collateral consequence of a criminal conviction in that it extends beyond the punishment prescribed by law for the crime committed. Civil death can be a lifelong penalty for certain offenses, or it may be imposed for a limited time period, depending on the jurisdiction and the offense.

The specific civil rights and privileges that are lost due to civil death vary depending on the jurisdiction, but they may include the right to vote, the right to hold public office, and the right to serve on a jury. In some jurisdictions, civil death may also result in the loss of certain professional licenses, such as law or medical licenses.

Civil death is meant to serve as a deterrent to criminal behavior by imposing additional consequences beyond those imposed by criminal sanctions. It is intended to demonstrate that society does not tolerate criminal behavior and that those who violate the law will suffer not only the criminal consequences of their actions but also the loss of certain civil rights and privileges.

It is important to note that civil death is not the same as the death penalty, which is the punishment of death for certain crimes. The loss of civil rights and privileges through civil death does not involve physical harm to the convicted person, but it can have significant social and economic consequences, particularly in the long term.

Civil death is a controversial concept, and there is an ongoing debate about its effectiveness as a deterrent to criminal behavior. Critics argue that it can lead to social exclusion and stigmatization of convicted individuals, which can make it harder for them to reintegrate into society and may even increase their likelihood of reoffending. Others argue that it is a necessary tool for punishing serious criminal offenses and protecting society from dangerous individuals.

In recent years, there has been a trend toward reducing or eliminating civil death as a consequence of criminal convictions. Some jurisdictions have passed laws that restore certain civil rights to convicted individuals after they have completed their sentences, such as the right to vote. These efforts are aimed at promoting rehabilitation and reintegration into society for those who have served their time and paid their debt to society.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/07/2023


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