Year That States Adopted Life Without Parole (LWOP) Sentencing

Year That States Adopted Life Without Parole (LWOP) Sentencing

*Indicates states with no death penalty.

# State Year Notes Source
1 Alabama 1981   Code of Alabama
2 Alaska* No LWOP   Prison Legal News
3 Arizona 1993   Arizona Legislature
4 Arkansas 1976   Arkansas Code of 1987
5 California 1976 1976 - Year added to statute; 1978 - Year LWOP Sentencing went into effect California State Library and Real Cost of Prison
6 Colorado 2002   Colorado Revised Statutes
7 Connecticut 1985   Connecticut Penal Code
8 Delaware 2003   Delaware Title 11
9 District of Columbia* 1981   District of Columbia Code
10 Florida 1994   General Acts, Resolutions and Memorials Adopted by the Thirteenth Legislature of Florida, pp. 1576-77
11 Georgia 1993   Harvard Law Review
12 Hawaii* 1976   Hawaii Supreme Court
13 Idaho 2004   University of San Francisco
14 Illinois 1978   The Sentencing Project
15 Indiana 1994   National Institute of Justice
16 Iowa* 1997   Iowans Against the Death Penalty
17 Kansas 2004   Harvard Law Review
18 Kentucky 1998   Kentucky Legislative Research Commission
19 Louisiana 1994   National Institute of Justice
20 Maine* 1841 LWOP not explicitly in statute, but exists in practice Maine Legislative Reference Library
21 Maryland* 1987   The British Journal of Criminology
22 Massachusetts* 1955   Massachusetts Legislative Directory
23 Michigan* 1953   Michigan Corrections Code of 1953
24 Minnesota* 1992   Minnesota Revisor of Statutes
25 Mississippi 1880   Mississippi Code of 1880 – Section 2877
26 Missouri 1984   Missouri Revised Statutes
27 Montana 1995   National Institute of Justice
28 Nebraska 2002 Added to statute in 2002 by state legislature, and ruled unconstitutional by state Supreme Court in 2010.  LWOP still exists in reality though not titled as LWOP any longer Nebraska Revised Statutes
29 Nevada 1967   Nevada Legislative Council
30 New Hampshire 1974   New Hampshire Legislature
31 New Jersey* 1995   National Institute of Justice
32 New Mexico* 1997 1997- LWOP added to statute for 2-time sex offenders; 2009- Death penalty abolished and replaced with LWOP CNN
33 New York* 1995   Bronx District Attorney
34 North Carolina 1994   National Institute of Justice
35 North Dakota* 1997   North Dakota Legislature
36 Ohio 1995   Ohio Catholic Conference
37 Oklahoma 1988   Harvard Law Review
38 Oregon 1984   Oregon Department of Corrections
39 Pennsylvania 1941   The Sentencing Project
40 Rhode Island* 1979   America Without the Death Penalty, pg. 223
41 South Carolina 1995   National Institute of Justice
42 South Dakota 1978   South Dakota Legislature
43 Tennessee 1995   National Institute of Justice
44 Texas 2005   Texas Legislature
45 Utah 1992   Harvard Law Review
46 Vermont* 1987   Vermont Legislative Council
47 Virginia 1994 1994- LWOP added for 3 strikes legislation; 1995- added as an alternative to the death penalty Truth in Justice and National Institute of Justice
48 Washington 1993   National Institute of Justice
49 West Virginia* 1965   America Without the Death Penalty, pg. 193
50 Wisconsin* 1994   National Institute of Justice
51 Wyoming 1982   Wyoming Statutes

*Indicates states with no death penalty

The federal death penalty statute was reinstated in 1988 and contained a LWOP sentencing alternative.  The list of death-eligible crimes was expanded in 1994, also with LWOP alternatives.

The U.S. Military added a LWOP alternative to its death penalty statute for crimes committed on or after Nov. 17, 1997.

Note: Dates may vary according to different legal resources.  This variance occurs because of different interpretations of life without parole laws.  Some states have had laws that have effectively served as LWOP statutes without being titled so, while other states have had more explicit start dates for the sentencing option.

Research and compilation by Thomas Davidson, DPIC, pub. Aug. 2, 2010.