Inalienable Right Law and Legal Definition

Inalienable right refers to rights that cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to someone else, especially a natural right such as the right to own property. However, these rights can be transferred with the consent of the person possessing those rights. Inalienable is defined as incapable of being surrendered or transferred; at least without one's consent.[Morrison v. State, 252 S.W.2d 97, 101 (Mo. Ct. App. 1952)]. A person can surrender, sell or transfer inalienable rights by actual or constructive consent.

The Declaration of Independence also speaks about unalienable rights. It says that that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." These rights cannot be bartered away, or given away, or taken away except in punishment of crime. Governments are instituted to “secure," not grant or create, these rights.

For example, Illinois Const., Art. I, § 1 says “All men are by nature free and independent and have certain inherent and inalienable rights among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights and the protection of property, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Likewise, the free exercise of religion is an inherent, fundamental, and inalienable right secured by Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois. Each and every citizen has an inalienable right to full and effective participation in the political processes of the legislative bodies of the nations, state, or locality as the case may be.[Board of Estimate v. Morris, 489 U.S. 688 (U.S. 1989)]

Some rights are made inalienable because the law prohibits the same. For example, in Illinois, any financial assistance provided under 20 ILCS 505/5 (J) ( financial assistance and educational grants made by the Department of Children and Family Services) is inalienable by assignment, sale, execution, attachment, garnishment, or any other remedy for recovery or collection of a judgment or debt.