Reprieve Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Reprieve, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Reprieve?

(n) A reprive is the executive order issued by the Governor of the state delaying death sentence awarded to a person. A reprive is issued when the penalty cannot be reduced in the present scenario but a reconsideration of the case is required

History and Meaning of Reprieve

A reprieve is an official order issued by a government authority to temporarily delay or grant a postponement of a sentence, particularly a death sentence, and offer a chance for reconsideration. The word "reprieve" originated from the Latin term "reprehendere," which means to hold back or seize. Reprieve is commonly used in the criminal justice system to buy time to examine evidence, verify facts, or consider a death row inmate's clemency requests.

Governors, presidents, monarchs, and other high-ranking officials have used the reprieve to stay executions for centuries. It was initially designed to minimize the chances of executing an innocent person or someone who did not deserve the death penalty. Reprieves were initially granted for short periods, but long reprieves became more typical in the twentieth century when governments for humanitarian reasons stopped capital punishment.

Examples of Reprieve

  1. After the appeals court upheld the death sentence, the governor issued a reprieve, delaying the execution date for several months.
  2. The state legislature passed a bill allowing for the governor to issue a reprieve if substantial new evidence in a death row case warrants reconsideration.
  3. The governor exercised his powers by issuing a 90-day reprieve and establishing a commission to examine the state's capital punishment system.
  4. After serving 25 years on death row, the inmate's life was spared when the governor granted a permanent reprieve based on DNA evidence that exonerated him.
  5. The International Criminal Court issued a reprieve to allow the Accused Person to prepare for trial because of a lack of evidence.

Legal Terms Similar to Reprieve

  1. Clemency: A formal act of mercy reducing or eliminating the severity of the sentence or punishment of a convicted criminal.
  2. Commutation: The act of changing a sentence to a less severe one while still recognizing guilt.
  3. Pardon: A grant of official forgiveness that releases a person from legal punishment for a crime they've been convicted of committing.