Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Criminal Code Definition:

A statute which purports or attempts to set out all prohibited or criminal offences, and their various punishments.

Even common law jurisdictions who traditionally avoid codification, have turned towards the codification of the criminal law, which provides the citizen with a single "one-stop shopping" resource in which all conduct which the state prohibits is set out in writing and published, and within which it announces relevant punishments for each offence.

Some jurisdictions prefer the term penal code (such as the state of New York and California) and other divide the criminal code into two; severing the procedural components into a separate document called, for example, a code of criminal procedure. In this way the average citizen is not obliged to wade through procedural texts in his or her determinations of prohibited conduct.

For Federal offences in the United States, the government has chosen to incorporate the criminal or penal code within the United States Code, as Chapter 18, entitled Crimes and Criminal Procedure.

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