Legal Definition of Statute
Under the U.S. and state constitutions, statutes are considered the primary source of law in the U.S.4 min read
A law established by an act of the legislature.
Under the U.S. and state constitutions, statutes are considered the primary source of law in the U.S. -- that is, legislatures make the law (statutes) and courts interpret the law (cases).
Most state statutes are organized by subject matter and published in books referred to as codes. Typically, a state has a:
- family or civil code (where the divorce laws are usually contained),
- a criminal code (where incest, bigamy and domestic violence laws are often found),
- a welfare code (which contains laws related to public benefits),
- a probate code (where laws about wills, trusts and probate proceedings are collected)
- and many other codes dealing with a wide variety of topics.
Federal statutes are organized into subject matter titles within the United States Code (for example, Title 18 for crimes and Title 11 for bankruptcy).
The written will of the legislature, solemnly expressed according to the forms prescribed in the Constitution; an act of the legislature.
This word is used in contradistinction to the common law. Statutes acquire their force from the time of their passage unless otherwise provided.
It is a general rule that when the provision of a statute is general, everything which is necessary to make such provision effectual is supplied by the common law and when a power is given by statute, everything necessary for making it effectual is given by implication.
Kinds of Statutes
Statutes are of several kinds; namely, Public or private.
1. Public statutes are those of which the judges will take notice without pleading; as, those which concern all officers in general; acts concerning trade in general or any specific trade; acts concerning all persons generally.
2. Private acts, are those of which the judges wiil not take notice without pleading; such as concern only a particular species, or person; as, acts relating to any particular place, or to several particular places, or to one or several particular counties. Private statutes may be rendered public by being so declared by the legislature.
3. Declaratory or remedial
- A declaratory statute is one which is passed in order to put an end to a doubt as to what the common law is, and which declares what it is, and has ever been.
- Remedial statutes are those which are made to supply such defects, and abridge such superfluities in the common law as may have been discovered. These remedial statutes are themselves divided into enlarging statutes, by which the common law is made more comprehensive and extended than it was before; and into restraining statutes, by which it is narrowed down to that which is just and proper. The term remedial statute is also applied to those acts which give the party injured a remedy, and in some respects those statutes are penal.
4. Temporary or perpetual
- A temporary statute is one which is limited in its duration at the time of its enactment. It continues in force until the time of its limitation has expired, unless sooner repealed.
- A perpetual statute is one for the continuance of which there is no limited time, although it be not expressly declared to be so. If, however, a statute which did not itself contain any limitation, is to be governed by another which is temporary only, the former will also be temporary and dependent upon the existence of the latter.
5. Affirmative or negative
- An affirmative statute is one which is enacted in affirmative terms; such a statute does not take away the common law. If, for example, a statute without negative words, declares that when certain requisites shall have been complied with, deeds shall, have in evidence a certain effect, this does not prevent their being used in evidence, though the requisites have not been complied with, in the same manner as they might have been before the statute was passed.
- A negative statute is one expressed in negative terms, and so controls the common law, that it has no force in opposition to the statute. Penal statutes are those which order or prohibit a thing under a certain penalty.
Among the civilians, the term statute is generally applied to all sorts of laws and regulations; every provision of law which ordains, permits, or prohibits anything is a statute without considering from what source it arises. Sometimes the word is used in contradistinction to the imperial Roman law, which, by way of eminence, civilians call the common law. They divide statutes into three classes, personal, real and mixed.
Personal statutes are those which have principally for their object the person, and treat of property only incidentally; such are those which regard birth, legitimacy, freedom, the fight of instituting suits, majority as to age, incapacity to contract, to make a will, to plead in person, and the like. A personal statute is universal in its operation, and in force everywhere.
Real statutes are those which have principally for their object, property, and which do not speak of persons, except in relation to property; such are those which concern the disposition, which one may make of his property either alive or by testament. A real statute, unlike a personal one, is confined in its operation to the country of its origin.
Mixed statutes are those which concern at once both persons and property. But in this sense almost all statutes are mixed, there being scarcely any law relative to persons, which does not at the same time relate to things.