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capital offense

n. any criminal charge which is punishable by the death penalty, called "capital" since the defendant could lose his/her head (Latin for caput). Crimes punishable by death vary from state to state and country to country. In 38 American states these offenses may include first degree murder (premeditated), murder with special circumstances (such as intentional, multiple, involved with another crime, with guns, of a police officer, or a repeat offense), and rape with additional bodily harm, and the federal crime of treason. A charge of a capital offense usually means no bail will be allowed.

See also: bail  capital punishment 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications