Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Year-and-a-day Rule Definition:

A common law rule precluding prosecution for murder where the victim died a year and a day, or later, after the infliction of the ultimately fatal wounds.

In US v Chase, Justice Sprouse of the United States Court of Appeals wrote:

"... the common law's ancient year and a day rule is applicable to federal prosecutions for murder."

Similarly, in Harold Woods v State, Justice Brown for the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama noted (at footnote #3):

"Although the victim's death was ultimately attributable to the injuries inflicted by the appellant, the appellant could not be tried for murder because the victim died more than one year and a day after he was shot by the appellant.

"Pursuant to the common law rule, a defendant can be prosecuted for homicide only if the victim dies within one year and a day of the defendant's wrongful act."

Many jurisdictions have abrogated this common law rule.


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