attainder


attainder

In English law, the extinction of civil and political rights after a sentence of death or outlawry, usually after a conviction of treason. A legislative act attainting a person without trial was known as a bill of attainder. The most important consequences of attainder were forfeiture of property and “corruption of blood,” meaning that the attainted person was disqualified from inheriting or transmitting property, thus disinheriting his descendants. All forms of attainder except forfeiture following indictment for treason were abolished in the 19th century. As a result of the English experience, the U.S. Constitution provided that “no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.” The U.S. Supreme Court has also struck down as bills of attainder such things as the test oaths passed after the Civil War to disqualify Confederate sympathizers from certain professions.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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