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November 07, 2004


Neal Whitman

Is this the same definition of life used in sentencing felons to a life sentence or life sentences?

Semantic Compositions

Since you asked, I looked up the California Penal Code. Life there can be a lot less than 20 years, it appears. Section 3046 states:

(a) No prisoner imprisoned under a life sentence may be paroled until he or she has served the greater of the following: (1) A term of at least seven calendar years. (2) A term as established pursuant to any other provision of law that establishes a minimum term or minimum period of confinement under a life sentence before eligibility for parole.

Section 3000.1 indicates that life on parole is very different from life in prison:

3000.1. (a) In the case of any inmate sentenced under Section 1168 for any offense of first or second degree murder with a maximum term of life imprisonment, the period of parole, if parole is granted, shall be the remainder of the inmate's life.

3046 is listed in the Penal Code table of contents under "discharge upon completion of term", so I would imagine that the definition of "life imprisonment" that it establishes is the definitive statement on the meaning of a life sentence. I gather from this that there is no single period of time known as "life" in California law, and that the definition in the Harrah's commercial applies only to the rules of their contest.

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