Latin Legal Terms

Caput

Caput or “capitis” – this Latin word refers to the figure of a head leader, a chief. In practice, it participates in the legal phrase “Caput gerat lipidum”, used in the Roman Criminal Law, where it detailed that a criminal is considered as lone wolf, so other people are entitled to do their best to capture him and bring him to justice, or deliver direct justice to him. I.e. the role of this legal rule was to involve the citizens in the processs of arresting criminals. For example, it detailed the job of headhunters in the Wild West in the 18th and 19th century.
The term “caput” relates also to the legal term “capitis diminution”, which is part of the Constitutional Law in many jurisdictions. It refers to permanent lose of legal status or personality, depending of its three versions – capitis diminution minima (lose of family relations), capitis diminution medium (losing family relations and citizenship, where possible), and capitis diminution maxima, meaning lose of family relations, citizenship and independence all at once at the same time.

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