Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Accusare Nemo Se Debet Nisi Coram Deo Definition:

Latin: no man is obliged to accusehimself except before God.

Related Terms: Confession

In his delightfully illustrated book, solicitor F. Steele describes accusare nemo se debet nisi coram deo as follows:

"No one is duty bound to accuse himself unless before God. In other words, the prisoner at the bar is fully entitled to plead not guilty whatever the facts may be. Similarly a witness may refuse to answer questions on the ground that a reply might incriminate him."

The old English law journal, Law Students' Magazine, used these words to describe accusare nemo se debet nisi coram deo:

"Accusare nemo se debet nisi coram Deo  - no man is obliged to accuse himself except before God.

"This is a maxim of which, perhaps alone of all countries, England can be said to hold to strictly. For not only does our law refuse to call on a man to accuse himself, but it will not admit his confession unless it be shown to have been made freely and voluntarily. And the courts look very strictly to this, for if they can see that any, the slightest inducement, either by way of promise or of threat, or anything which the prisoner might consider as such, has been held out to him, they reject the confession.

"Thus confessions have been refused admission where the prosecutor used the following expressions:

  • 'I should be obliged to you if you would tell us what you know about it; if you will not, of course we can do nothing.'
  • 'I only want my money, and if you give me that you may go to the devil, if you please,' upon which defendant took part of the money from his pocket, and said that was all he had left.
  • 'Anything you can say in your defence we shall be ready to hear."

"It must be added that an exhortation, admonition, promise, or threat, proceeding at a prior time from some one who has no concern in the apprehension, examination, or conviction of the prisoner, but interferes without any authority, will not render a confession inadmissible."


  • Law Maxims, 5 Law Students' Mag. 214 (1847-1848)
  • Mayrand, Albert, Dictionnaire de maximes et locutions latines utilisées en droit (Montréal: Éditions Yvon Blais, 2007), page 8
  • Steele, E. A., Juris Proverbia (Halifax, Yorks: Halifax Law Classes, 1933), page 12

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