Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Defile Definition:

To corrupt the integrity of a thing.

Related Terms: Mutilation

In People v Cowgill, Justice Whyte of the Appellate Department of the Superior Court of California had before him a statute called the Military and Veterans Code. At §614 of said statute, a misdemeanor was created by the act of "publicly mutilate, deface, defile or trample upon a flag of the United States."

In affirming the conviction of Alfred Cowgill, the judge adopted this definition of defile:

"... to corrupt the purity of (or) to debase."

In the context of an individual, consider the 1890 case of State v Montgomery, Supreme Court of Iowa, Justice Robinson presiding. George Montgomery was charged under the criminal law of having "unlawfuly and feloniously tale one Sophia Wheelock ... against her will and by force and menace and duress, compelled her ... to be defiled...." Robinson found that the victim had been defiled and that the term meant:

"... to pollute, to corrupt the chastity of, to debauch or to violate."


  • People v Cowgill, 78 Cal. Rptr. 853 (1969)
  • State v Hodson, 289 A. 2d 635 (1972)
  • State v Montgomery, 45 NW 292 (1890)

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