Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Lay by the Heels Definition:

To commit to prison.

In  Curiosities of the Law Reporters, Franklin F. Heard writes of the 1790 case, Wright v Crump, in which the Court of King's Bench committed the mayor of Hereford for being judge in his own case (see nemo judex in parte sua); that he was:

"... laid by the heels.

"To lay by the heels was the technical expression for committing to prison."

In William Shakespeare's play King Henry IV, the playwright has his character Lord Chief Justice say to another (Falstaff):

"To punish you by the heels would amend the attention of your ears."



  • Heard, Franklin Fiske, Curiosities of the Law Reporters (Boston: W.S. Bartlett, 1871), page 25.
  • Wright v Crump, 2 Ld. Raym. 766; also at 92 E.R. 12 (1790)

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