Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Penal Code Definition:

A statute which lists and defines prohibited conduct (crimes) and the punishments associated with each.

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 criminal code (such as Canada) and other divide the penal law 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 penal code within the United States Code, as Chapter 18, entitled Crimes and Criminal Procedure.

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