Death Penalty Laws by State

Death Penalty Overview

The death penalty continues to be a hot-button issue in the United States. Over the years, its viability as a method of punishment has come under fire by numerous groups for various reasons. Should we punish our most serious offenders with the most serious consequence – taking their lives from them? While some argue that too many innocent people are wrongly accused and then sentenced to death row, others still believe that the old adage, "an eye for an eye," should be our guiding principle when it comes to crime deterrence. A 2016 poll by the Pew Research Center found that only about half of Americans (49 percent) support the death penalty.

Wherever you stand on the issue, keep in mind that each state has its own death penalty laws and ways of implementing them.

Narrowing of the Death Penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court has narrowed the application of the death penalty in several cases, making it harder to prescribe this form of punishment across the board. For instance, mentally disabled offenders (Atkins v. Virginia, 2002) and juvenile offenders (Roper v. Simmons, 2005) cannot face the death penalty as a potential sentence (as of 2017).

Method of Execution

Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in all states which allow for the death penalty. More than a dozen states also use a secondary method of execution and six states utilize other methods that are available if the offender requests an alternative. To be clear, secondary methods of execution range from electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, and/or firing squad. Be sure to check the laws in your state to learn more.

Death Penalty Laws by State

Below you will find a list of death penalty laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including whether capital punishment is allowed, the year it was abolished (if applicable), and approved methods of execution. Remember, death penalty laws are changing at a rapid pace. Be sure to check with a qualified criminal defense attorney in your area if you or someone you love is facing the death penalty.

State

Death Penalty Allowed?

Approved Method of Execution

Additional Provision

Alabama

Yes

Lethal injection, with secondary methods if necessary

Alabama capital punishment laws

Alaska

No, abolished in 1957

N/A

Alaska capital punishment laws

Arizona

Yes

Lethal injection primary method with secondary methods in limited circumstances

Arizona capital punishment laws

Arkansas

Yes

Lethal injection, with secondary methods in limited circumstances

Arkansas capital punishment laws

California

Possibly, in state of limbo after lawsuits were filed after Prop 66 passed in the November, 2016 election

Lethal injection

California capital punishment laws

Colorado

Yes

Lethal injection

Colorado capital punishment laws

Connecticut

No, abolished in 2012 and again in 2016

N/A

Connecticut capital punishment laws

Delaware

Possibly; in 2016 the Delaware Supreme Court held that the state's capital sentencing procedures were unconstitutional and struck down Delaware's death penalty statute. It is still unclear whether the Supreme Court's decision applies to the 13 people facing active death sentences. In 2017, the Delaware House voted to reinstate the death penalty, but bill still needs to go to Senate for a vote.

N/A

Delaware capital punishment laws

District of Columbia

No, abolished 1981

N/A

District of Columbia capital punishment laws

Florida

Yes

Lethal injection as primary method, other methods that are available if the offender requests an alternative

Florida capital punishment laws

Georgia

Yes

Lethal injection

Georgia capital punishment laws

Hawaii

No, abolished in 1957

N/A

Hawaii capital punishment laws

Idaho

Yes

Lethal injection

Idaho capital punishment laws

Illinois

No, Governor Quinn signed legislation to abolish the death penalty in 2011

N/A

Illinois capital punishment laws

Indiana

Yes

Lethal injection

Indiana capital punishment laws

Iowa

No, abolished in 1965

N/A

Iowa capital punishment laws

Kansas

Yes

Lethal injection

Kansas capital punishment laws

Kentucky

Yes

Lethal injection, secondary methods for offenders who were sentenced before the introduction of lethal injection

Kentucky capital punishment laws

Louisiana

Yes

Lethal injection

Louisiana capital punishment laws

Maine

No, abolished in 1887

N/A

Maine capital punishment laws

Maryland

No, abolished in 2013

N/A

Maryland capital punishment laws

Massachusetts

No, abolished in 1984

N/A

Massachusetts capital punishment laws

Michigan

No, abolished for all crimes in 1963

N/A

Michigan capital punishment laws

Minnesota

No, abolished in 1911

N/A

Minnesota capital punishment laws

Mississippi

Yes

Lethal injection is primary method, but other methods are available if the offender requests an alternative

Mississippi capital punishment laws

Missouri

Yes

Lethal injection is primary method, but other methods are available if the offender requests an alternative including the gas chamber

Missouri capital punishment laws

Montana

Yes

Lethal injection

Montana capital punishment laws

Nebraska

No

Lethal injection

Nebraska capital punishment laws

Nevada

Yes, but could change depending on legislature

Lethal injection

Nevada capital punishment laws

New Hampshire

Yes, but New Hampshire only for murder under specific circumstances

Lethal injection primary method, with a secondary option if lethal injection is unavailable

New Hampshire capital punishment laws

New Jersey

No, abolished in 2007

N/A

New Jersey capital punishment laws

New Mexico

No, abolished in 2009

N/A

New Mexico capital punishment laws

New York

No, as of 2007

N/A

New York capital punishment laws

North Carolina

Yes

Lethal injection

North Carolina capital punishment laws

North Dakota

No, abolished 1973

N/A

North Dakota capital punishment laws

Ohio

Yes

Lethal injection

Ohio capital punishment laws

Oklahoma

Yes

Lethal injection primary method, but will provide a secondary option if lethal injection is unavailable

Oklahoma capital punishment laws

Oregon

***Yes, but in 2011 Governor Kitzhaber placed a moratorium on executions and it continues into 2017

Lethal injection

Oregon capital punishment laws

Pennsylvania

***Yes, but On Feb. 13, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf declared a death penalty moratorium in the state

Lethal injection

Pennsylvania capital punishment laws

Rhode Island

No, abolished in 1984

N/A

Rhode Island capital punishment laws

South Carolina

Yes

Lethal injection, but other methods that are available if the offender requests an alternative

South Carolina capital punishment laws

South Dakota

Yes

Lethal injection

South Dakota capital punishment laws

Tennessee

Yes

Lethal injection primary method, secondary methods for offenders who were sentenced before the introduction of lethal injection

Tennessee capital punishment laws

Texas

Yes

Lethal injection

Texas capital punishment laws

Utah

Yes

Lethal injection is primary method. Secondary methods for offenders who were sentenced before the introduction of lethal injection.

Utah capital punishment laws

Vermont

No, abolished in 1987

N/A

Vermont capital punishment laws

Virginia

 

Yes, the first recorded execution in an English American colony occurred in Virginia in 1608

Lethal injection is the primary method, other methods that are available if the offender requests an alternative

Virginia capital punishment laws

Washington

Possibly; in a state of limbo, after Feb. 11, 2014, when Governor Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on executions

Lethal injection, but other methods are available if the offender requests an alternative

Washington capital punishment laws

West Virginia

No, abolished 1965

N/A

West Virginia capital punishment laws

Wisconsin

No, abolished 1853

N/A

Wisconsin capital punishment laws

Wyoming

Yes

Lethal injection with a secondary option if lethal injection is unavailable

Wyoming capital punishment laws

Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through the enactment of new legislation but also through court decisions and other means. Contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Death Penalty Laws: Relevant Supreme Court Cases

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The death penalty is a politically charged topic, but one that transcends academic discussion – particularly if you or someone you know is facing capital punishment. This is a rapidly developing area of the law and one that varies by state and the political climate. If you are facing charges with the death penalty as possible punishment, don’t delay. Get a free case review from a criminal defense attorney now.

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