Major classifications of law


Generally, the law can be classified into 4 major categories i.e.  Common law and Equity, Criminal Law and Civil Law, Public Law and Private Law, and Substantive Law and Procedural Law.

With vivid examples, here you will find an in-depth explanation about all classifications of law.

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Criminal Law and Civil Law

Criminal law is that class of law that attracts the interests of the 21 state/public and therefore deals with the relationship between the state and individuals. It deals with crimes and punishments. In criminal cases, the suspect of a crime is called the accused and those who allege suspicion towards the accused are called prosecutors. When the case is determined the accused is either found guilty or not guilty and if guilty he is convicted and sentenced accordingly.

Example of criminal law includes law against terrorism, money laundry, corruption, etc.

Civil law is the class of law that regulates the relationships of individuals to which the state has no interest at all and is not directly involved. The state only provides institutions and a framework for the resolution of private disputes. In civil cases, the person who sues is called the plaintiff and the person who is sued is called the defendant. Normally punishment in a civil suit is compensation when the court finds that the lawsuit is justifiable.

Example of civil law includes the law of contract, the law of tort, the law of marriage, labor law, etc.

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Public Law and Private Law

Public law is that branch of law that deals with the relationship between the state and the individual. It also provides for how public power is to be exercised, by whom, and by what limits. Public law comprises laws such as constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law.

Private law is the one that governs and regulates the relationship between individuals. It deals exclusively with relationships between private individuals. Private law is made by various laws such as the law of contract and family law.

A clear distinction between public and private law is seen in enforcing certain rights and duties against the state and individual. The procedures for questioning actions of public authorities are generally different from those against a private juristic person

Substantive law and procedural law

Substantive law is the branch of law that deals with the rights and relationships that give rise to either rights or obligations, while procedural law is the law that provides for the procedure for establishing who is right and who is wrong.

For example, the law that says it is wrong to breach a contract is substantive under the law of contract. It provides for substance rights. But the law that says you have to file a civil case to seek redress for breach of contract is procedural law.

Therefore the example of substantive law includes land law, contract law, tort law, etc. while an example of procedural law includes civil procedure law, criminal procedure law, evidence law, etc.

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Common law and Equity

Common law is a body of rules which were developed by the common law courts in England. In some cases, common law did not afford adequate justice to parties and in order to supplement them, the courts of Chancery in England developed rules to cure mischief of the common law; those rules are known as doctrines of equity.

Read also: A definitive guide to the legal system in the world

Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Mzumbe University and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law school of Tanzania. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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