bill of attainder

When a government convicts someone to death without holding a trial first, it's done with a law known as a bill of attainder. This kind of legislation is not allowed under the rules of the US Constitution.

Historically, the word attainder has meant "giving up land and civil rights as a consequence of a death sentence." In a bill of attainder, legislators have enacted a law imposing this sentence, rather than going through the process of an actual trial. In 1542, King Henry VIII had several prisoners executed using bills of attainder. Modern governments are critical of this method, and it's explicitly banned in the US Constitution.

Definitions of bill of attainder
1

n a legislative act finding a person guilty of treason or felony without a trial

bills of attainder are prohibited by the Constitution of the United States”
Type of:
bill, measure
a statute in draft before it becomes law

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.