Civil death 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 Vogel Frei (‘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.
In Law (Modern)
In modern law, Civil Death is the Forfeiture of rights and privileges of an individual who has been convicted of a serious crime.
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 involves the imposition of numerous disabilities, including 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 judicially enforceable agreements, such as contracts, and may not obtain insurance and Pension benefits. The offender may also be deprived of any right to commence certain lawsuits in court.
Successive marriages can also be affected by civil death laws. The issue is whether or not the spouse of a person declared civilly dead may enter into a subsequent marriage. The state courts are in disagreement on the matter, although, in most instances, where a felony is a ground for Divorce, the spouse of the convicted person may end the marriage.