Criminal law

The Old Bailey in London (in 1808) was the venue for more than 100,000 criminal trials between 1674 and 1834, including all death penalty cases.
An English court room in 1886, with Lord Chief Justice Coleridge presiding
International Criminal Court in The Hague

Body of law that relates to crime.

- Criminal law

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Unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority.

The spiked heads of executed criminals once adorned the gatehouse of the medieval London Bridge.
Kang Kek Iew before the Cambodian Genocide Tribunal on July 20, 2009
Religious sentiment often becomes a contributory factor of crime. In the 1819 anti-Jewish Hep-Hep riots in Würzburg, rioters attacked Jewish businesses and destroyed property.

The term crime does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, though statutory definitions have been provided for certain purposes.

Private law

That part of a civil law legal system which is part of the jus commune that involves relationships between individuals, such as the law of contracts and torts , and the law of obligations (as it is called in civil legal systems).

Legal systems of the world. Civil law based systems are in turquoise.

It is to be distinguished from public law, which deals with relationships between both natural and artificial persons (i.e., organizations) and the state, including regulatory statutes, penal law and other law that affects the public order.


System of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate.

Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.
Classic symbol of law in heraldry.
"The Law" sculpture at interior of the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland.
Bentham's utilitarian theories remained dominant in law until the 20th century.
King Hammurabi is revealed the code of laws by the Mesopotamian sun god Shamash, also revered as the god of justice.
The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution for a country, containing 444 articles, 12 schedules, numerous amendments and 117,369 words.
Colour-coded map of the legal systems around the world, showing civil, common law, religious, customary and mixed legal systems. Common law systems are shaded pink, and civil law systems are shaded blue/turquoise.
Emperor Justinian (527–565) of the Byzantine Empire who ordered the codification of Corpus Juris Civilis.
First page of the 1804 edition of the Napoleonic Code.
King John of England signs Magna Carta.
A trial in the Ottoman Empire, 1879, when religious law applied under the Mecelle.
The Chamber of the House of Representatives, the lower house in the National Diet of Japan.
The G20 meetings are composed of representatives of each country's executive branch.
Officers of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg, 2010.
The mandarins were powerful bureaucrats in imperial China (photograph shows a Qing dynasty official with mandarin square visible).
In civil law systems such as those of Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Greece, there is a distinct category of notary, a legally trained public official, compensated by the parties to a transaction. This is a 16th-century painting of such a notary by Flemish painter Quentin Massys.
A march in Washington, D.C., during the civil rights movement in 1963.
Providing a constitution for public international law, the United Nations system was agreed during World War II.
The Italian lawyer Sir Alberico Gentili, the Father of international law.
The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
A depiction of a 17th-century criminal trial, for witchcraft in Salem.
The famous Carbolic Smoke Ball advertisement to cure influenza was held to be a unilateral contract.
The "McLibel case" was the longest-running case in UK history. It involved publishing a pamphlet that criticised McDonald's restaurants.
A painting of the South Sea Bubble, one of the world's first ever speculations and crashes, led to strict regulation on share trading.
The Court of Chancery, London, England, early 19th century.
A trade union protest by UNISON while on strike.
The New York Stock Exchange trading floor after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, before tougher banking regulation was introduced.
Richard Posner, one of the Chicago School, until 2014 ran a blog with Bank of Sweden Prize winning economist Gary Becker.
Max Weber in 1917, Weber began his career as a lawyer, and is regarded as one of the founders of sociology and sociology of law.

Public law concerns government and society, including constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law.

Code of Hammurabi

Babylonian legal text composed c. undefined 1755–1750 BC. It is the longest, best-organised, and best-preserved legal text from the ancient Near East.

The Louvre stele
Babylonian territory before (red) and after (orange) Hammurabi's reign
Father Jean-Vincent Scheil, first modern editor of the Code
The relief on the Louvre stele
Ea/Enki, god of wisdom whom Hammurabi implores to confuse any defacer of his stele, depicted on a cylinder seal c. 2300 BC
A British Museum display of tablets from the Library of Ashurbanipal. The Library lists a copy of the "judgments of Hammurabi" over a millennium after Hammurabi's death.
The text. The arrangement of the Code's cuneiform was antiquated when it was written.
Prologue to the Code of Lipit-Ishtar
Moses receiving the law on Mount Sinai, depicted in the Byzantine Leo Bible
The relief portrait of Hammurabi in the U.S. Capitol, by Thomas Hudson Jones

Their scope is broad, including, for example, criminal law, family law, property law, and commercial law.


Civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act.

Legal systems of the world. Civil law based systems are in turquoise.

Tort claims may be compared to criminal law, which deals with criminal wrongs that are punishable by the state.


Robert L. Patten Probation Detention Center in Lakeland, Georgia

Probation in criminal law is a period of supervision over an offender, ordered by the court often in lieu of incarceration.

House arrest

Measure by which a person is confined by the authorities to their residence.

Alexei Nikolaevich and his sister Tatiana Nikolaevna surrounded by guards during their house arrest in Tsarskoye Selo, April 1917
Grand Duchesses Maria, Olga, Anastasia and Tatiana Nikolaevna under house arrest in Tsarskoye Selo, May 1917

While house arrest can be applied to criminal cases when prison does not seem an appropriate measure, the term is often applied to the use of house confinement as a measure of repression by authoritarian governments against political dissidents.

Strict liability

The Old Bailey in London (in 1808) was the venue for more than 100,000 criminal trials between 1674 and 1834, including all death penalty cases.

In criminal and civil law, strict liability is a standard of liability under which a person is legally responsible for the consequences flowing from an activity even in the absence of fault or criminal intent on the part of the defendant.

Criminal justice

Delivery of justice to those who have been accused of committing crimes.

United States criminal justice system flowchart
This image shows the procedure in the criminal justice system
A trial at the Old Bailey in London, c. 1808
The Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, Texas is a prison, a component of a corrections system
Qur'anic education for offenders at the Central Jail Faisalabad in Faisalabad, Pakistan
Prisoners at a whipping post in a Delaware prison, c. 1907

Criminal law is concerned with actions which are dangerous or harmful to society as a whole, in which prosecution is pursued not by an individual but rather by the state.

Intention (criminal law)

The Old Bailey in London (in 1808) was the venue for more than 100,000 criminal trials between 1674 and 1834, including all death penalty cases.

In criminal law, intent is a subjective state of mind that must accompany the acts of certain crimes to constitute a violation.