Civil Death Law and Legal Definition

In common law, civil death refers to the loss of all civil rights by a person who had been sentenced to death or declared an outlaw for committing a felony or treason. This included the loss of right to contract, the right to sue, and the right to protection under the law. Such an individual forfeits his or her civil rights, including the ability to marry, the capacity to own property, the right to contract, the right to sue, and the right to protection under the law.

Today, it refers the forfeiture of rights and privileges of an individual who has been convicted of a serious crime. It involves the imposition of numerous disabilities, like the denial of the privilege to vote, to hold public office, and to obtain many job and occupational licenses. In addition, an offender cannot enter into contracts, and may not obtain insurance and pension benefits. The offender may also be deprived of the right to commence certain lawsuits in court.

Civil death is provided for by statute in some states. Most civil death statutes apply only to offenders who have been sentenced to a life term.

Civil death also refers to the state of a corporation that has formally dissolved or become bankrupt, leaving an estate to be administered for the benefit of shareholders and creditors.