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A body of law that defines criminal offenses and punishments for convicted persons. The general purposes of the criminal laws are to (a) define the acts or omissions that are proscribed and their consequent punishments, (b) define the mental states that constitute each offense, and (c) differentiate between serious and minor offenses.

In the United States, criminal law refers to substantive criminal law. Substantive criminal law stemmed from common law. Common law, which originated in England, is known as judge-made law since judges used previous case decisions as precedent for their own judicial decisions. Substantive criminal law is based on legislative action and is found in federal and state statutes defining crimes against the state, persons, habitation, property, public order, public morals, nature, the environment, and ...

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