May 31st, 1854 – France Bans Civil Death

Today-In-History

On May 31st, 1854, the civil death procedure is abolished in France. 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.

Prisoners 680

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.

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

 


 

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