[Home]Peine forte et dure

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In the common law legal system, formerly a defendant who refused to plea would be subjected to peine forte et dure (French for 'strong and hard punishment'), having stones placed upon their chest until they either entered a plea or died. Many defendants charged with capital offences nonetheless refused to plea, since thereby they would escape forfeiture of property, and their heirs would still inherit their estate; but if the defendant plead guilty and was executed, their heirs would inherit nothing, their property going to the Crown. But today in all common law jurisdictions a defendant who refuses to enter a plea has a plea of not guilty entered for them on their behalf.

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Last edited October 5, 2001 2:56 am by Dmerrill (diff)