Legal Dictionary

life imprisonment

Legal Definition of life imprisonment

See also

Definition of life imprisonment

Further reading

Life imprisonment (also known as a life sentence or life incarceration) is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime where the convicted person is to remain in prison for the rest of his or her life. Examples of crimes for which a person could receive this sentence include: murder, high treason, severe or violent cases of drug or human trafficking, or aggravated cases of burglary or robbery resulting in death or great bodily harm.

This sentence does not exist in all countries. However, where life imprisonment is a possible sentence, there may also be formal mechanisms to request parole after a certain time of having being in prison. This means that the convict could be entitled to spend the rest of the sentence (i.e., until they die) outside prison; this is usually conditional depending on past and future conduct, possibly with certain restrictions or obligations. In contrast to jurisdictions without life imprisonment, a convict after having served the given prison sentence is free upon release.

The length of time and the modalities surrounding parole vary greatly for each jurisdiction. In some places convicts are entitled to apply for parole relatively early, in others only after several decades. However, the time of legally being entitled to apply for parole does often not tell anything about the actual date of being granted parole. Article 110 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that for the gravest forms of crimes (e.g., war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide), a prisoner ought to serve two thirds of a fixed sentence, or 25 years in the case of life imprisonment. After this period, the Court shall then review the sentence to determine whether it should be reduced.


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1.     landed property
2.     lex fori
3.     status quo
4.     ownership
5.     lex loci delicti commissi
6.     lex situs
7.     sodomy
8.     lex causae
9.     unjustified
10.     AORO