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Virginia Capital Punishment Laws

Overview of Virginia Capital Punishment Laws

Capital punishment, or the death penalty, is allowed by the federal government but regulated by the states. Some states have abolished the practice altogether. But most states, including Virginia, allow capital punishment for extraordinarily cruel murders and some other serious offenses. Virginia capital punishment laws allow the condemned to choose either lethal injection or electrocution to carry out the sentence.

Virginia and 19 other states previously permitted the death penalty for offenders younger than 18. Then in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on minors. In the 5-4 Roper v. Simmons opinion, the Court ruled the death penalty for juveniles to be cruel and unusual punishment. The Court stated it was also influenced by a desire to end the United States' international isolation on the issue.

A Brief History of Capital Punishment in Virginia

A 1608 execution at Jamestown in Virginia is the first recorded execution in what would become the United States. But the electric chair was the primary method of capital punishment in Virginia for much of the 20th century. Today, all Virginia executions take place at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.

The basics of Virginia's capital punishment laws are summarized in the chart below. See FindLaw's Death Penalty section for more articles and resources.

Code Section 18.2-10; 18.2-17; 18.2-31; 19.2-167, et seq.; 53.1-233, 19.2-264.2, et seq.
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? Yes
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity Cannot stand trial for criminal offense if insane
Minimum Age 18  
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? -
Definition of Capital Homicide Capital offenses include willful, deliberate, premeditated killing: In connection with abduction for extortion of money or pecuniary benefit; for hire; committed while confined to state correctional facility; armed robbery; rape, sodomy; law officer for purposes of interfering with official duties; multiple murders; victim in commission of abduction, intended to extort money or for pecuniary benefit; controlled substance; outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman; continuing serious threat to society; willful killing of a pregnant woman by person who knows woman is pregnant; any person under 14 by a person 21 and older; act of terrorism
Method of Execution Electrocution or by lethal injection

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching. If you have been charged with a serious crime, work with your public defender or contact a criminal defense attorney without delay to protect your rights.

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