The phrase “indignity to a human body” is a technical term used to describe an indecent act to the human remains of an individual after the person’s time of death. It does not refer to a single act of defacing a dead person’s physical body, but is a more broad term used to refer to any act that does not treat the body with respect. It includes any act that is inflicted on a corpse that treats the deceased person with disrespect, is intended to be an insult, or is disgraceful to the person’s remains. Slightly more confusing though about this offence is the inclusion of someone improperly burying a person. This might include a person who dies of natural causes and was buried on the family property without ensuring adequate arrangements were made with the local authorities to do so.
Is it Always Associate with Murder?
While people who commit murder often have a lack of respect for human life, and a lack of respect for the individual who has been killed, they are not the only ones who can be charged with “indignity to a human body” after a person has passed away. For instance, if an individual were to come across the remains of a human body, and then made the decision to mutilate the body in some manner, they could in fact be charged with “indignity to a human body” but have no connections to the person’s murder.
With that being said, these charges are often closely connected to murder charges, in that if a person were to shoot someone, then place them into a black contractor bag, and dump their remains into the river they would have committed both crimes, and could face the consequences of both. Some cases which are even less likely to occur of “indignity to a human body” would be when an individual makes the decision to exhume a body without the proper legal documentation or adequate permission from the individual’s family.
Another instance of an individual being charged with “indignity to a human body” where murder was not connected to the case at all was the Canadian case of R. v. Moyer,  2 S.C.R. 899. In this case, a neo-nazi youngman entered a Jewish cemetery and proceeded to take photographs of himself urinating on the burial plots and gravestones. In this case, there was no actual physical contact with the human remains by the youngman. In this case, the individual was in fact found guilty of the offence.
Consequences for the Offence
There are a number of different factors which contribute to the prison term associated with either a guilty plea or a guilty verdict for an “indignity to a human body” offense. Some of these factors may include how heinous of an act the person committed to the body was, if they were also associated with the murder of the person, or what the local, state, and federal laws surrounding the case are. For instance, in Canada, a person guilty of this offence is eligible for up to five years in prison. Other countries also have similar penal codes, like the United Kingdom and the United States; however, these charges are often overshadowed by the connecting murder charges in the death of a person.