Year and a day rule

Year and a day rule

The "year and a day rule" was a principle of English law holding that a death was conclusively presumed not to be murder (or any other homicide) if it occurred more than a year and one day since the act (or omission) that was alleged to have been its cause. The rule also applied to the offence of assisting with a suicide.

The application of the rule was a custom of English law that became enshrined in common law. The rule was abolished by the Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996. English law is now substantially revised such that if a specific act can be proved to be the cause of death, it can now constitute murder regardless of the intervening time. The abolition of the rule does not relieve the prosecution of its obligation to prove, in cases of murder, that the accused intended to cause either death or serious injury.

Principally, the rule was abolished due to the advancement of medicine. Life support technology can extend the interval between the murderous act and the subsequent death. Application of the year and a day rule prevented murder prosecutions, not because of the merits of the case, but because of the successful intervention of doctors in prolonging life. Additionally, advances in forensic medicine may assist the court to determine that an act was a cause of death even though it was carried out fairly far in the past.

In England and Wales, the permission of the Attorney General for England and Wales is required for any prosecution in which it is alleged that the death occurred more than three years after the causative act, or when the offender has previously been convicted of an offence in connection with the death.

The rule's status in the United States is less clear: many states have abolished it completely, and in 2001 the Supreme Court held that a Tennessee court's retroactive abolition of the rule was constitutional ("Rogers v. Tennessee"). However, its common law status has been successfully used by defendants to overturn convictions as recently as 2003. []

Other legal and quasi-legal uses of year and a day

* The period of a year and a day was a convenient period to represent a significant amount of time. Its use was generally as a jubilee or a permanence.
* Historically (England) the period that a couple must be married for a spouse to have claim to a share of inheritable property.
* In mediaeval Europe, a runaway serf became free after a year and a day.
* When a judgement has been reversed a fresh action may be lodged within a year and a day, regardless of the statute of limitations. U.S.
* In USA a common sentence length; for example, computer cracker Adil Yahya Zakaria Shakour was sentenced to one year and one day. [ Ref: USDOJ] For some crimes this is the minimum penalty, as traditionally in English-speaking, common law countries, misdemeanors many not entail a sentence of more than a year (hence, "eleven months and twenty-nine days") whereas felonies are traditionally punished by incarceration of over one year, hence "a year and a day." Furthermore, in many jurisdictions, prisoners are eligible for parole only if their sentences are longer than a year; by imposing a sentence of a year and a day, judges can offer defendants a chance at parole.


*"Criminal Law: Eighth Edition", Smith & Hogan, Butterworths, ISBN 0-406-08187-5
* [ Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996]
* [ July 2003 Wisconsin Lawyer summary of State v. Picotte]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Day rule — Day Day (d[=a]), n. [OE. day, dai, dei, AS. d[ae]g; akin to OS., D., Dan., & Sw. dag, G. tag, Icel. dagr, Goth. dags; cf. Skr. dah (for dhagh ?) to burn. [root]69. Cf. {Dawn}.] 1. The time of light, or interval between one night and the next; the …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • SABBATICAL YEAR AND JUBILEE — (Heb. שְׁמִטָּה, shemittah; יוֹבֵל, yovel). According to the Bible, during the seventh year all land had to be fallow and debts were to be remitted (Ex. 23:10–11; Lev. 25:1–7, 18–22; Deut. 15:1–11). The close of seven sabbatical cycles instituted …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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