Sources of Criminal Law.
Statute/”The Book” vs. Common Law/Case Law
A statute is a codified rule or written form of law. A statute identifies a particular rule of law or condition of a particular state or government. Each State has its own constitution; the states constitution and its laws are considered statutes. Generally, statutes are named through numbers or codes.
Example: In Illinois, the definition of a forcible felony is found under : 720 ILCS 5/2-8. 720 is the criminal code, ILCS stands for Illinois Compiled Statutes, 5/2-8 specifies the location of the rule. The term, “Throw the book at you” refers to the book of statutes or book of laws of the state. Throwing the book at you means they are charging you with as many things in the statute book as they can.
Statutes define everything we do in government, they are the laws passed by our representatives in congress or the state senate. These laws deal with everything from crimes, to taxes, to how to get a speed bump put in on a county road. Statutes are rules of law enacted by government and can be challenged as violating one or more of your constitutionally protected rights.
Common law comes from the old English system of law we copied here in the US. Common law is the practice of enforcing rules we have followed in the past.
Common law is defined by cases through the idea of precedent. Precedent is simply applying the same rule that did before. Citing precedent is like saying; “you did this before, so do it again.”
Example: Common law is the same idea as most parents employ with their kids. If you punished one child for biting a classmate by sending them to their room, you will also give your next child the same punishment if they bite a classmate. This is because historically, the punishment for biting was being sent to ones room. Thus, that punishment becomes the common law or common rule.
The concept of Stare Decisis adds another element to common law. Just like at your...
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