Generally, the law can be classified into 6 major categories i.e. Common law and Equity, Criminal Law and Civil Law, Public Law and Private Law, Municipal Law and International Law, Written law and Unwritten Law and Substantive Law and Procedural Law.
With vivid examples, here you will find an in-depth explanation about all classifications of law.
Let’s get started
Criminal Law and Civil Law
Criminal law is that class of law that attracts the interests of the state/public and therefore deals with the relationship between the state and individuals.
Criminal law 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.
Read further: Civil Law Vs Criminal Law: Everything You Must Know
Public Law and Private Law
Public law is that branch of law that deals with the relationship between the state and the individual.
Public law provides for how public power is to be exercised, by whom, and by what limits.
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.
Municipal Law and International Law
Municipal law may refer to the laws that govern a certain city or county, as well as the government organizations that operate inside those cities or counties. This can cover a wide range of issues, including everything from police power, zoning, education policies, and property taxes.
But an international point of view Municipal law also known as domestic law refers to the law which was enacted and applies to a specific country that enacted that law.
Any law which lacks international applicability is an example of domestic law, the good one is the constitution. The constitution of country A can never be applicable to the people of country B.
Whereby, International law is the branch of law that regulates the relationship between two or more states.
Example of intranational laws includes extradition laws, Human rights law, international environmental law, etc.
Read the relationship between Municipal law and international law here
Private international law is the body of conventions, model laws, national laws, legal guides, and
other documents and instruments that regulate private relationships across national borders.
Private international law is largely concerned with resolving national law conflicts and determining which country’s law applies to specific situations.
But Public International Law is composed of the laws, rules, and principles of general application that deal with the conduct of nation-states and international organizations among themselves as well as the relationships between nation-states and international organizations with persons, whether natural or juridical.
Private international law is also known as a ‘conflict of laws’ while public International Law is sometimes called the “law of nations” or just simply International Law.
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.
Common law is primarily concerned with what does the statute provides while equity is based on a judiciary assessment of fairness.
For example, in a breach of contract claim the court when applying common law will award monetary damages, but equity was created when monetary damages were insufficient to compensate for the loss.
Therefore, Through equity, a court can be able to order additional remedies to cure the situation. Those remedies include injunction, specific performance, restitution, etc. (collectively they are known as equitable remedies).
You may read more about the distinction between common law and equity here
Written law and Unwritten Law
Written laws are those laws that have been validly enacted by the legislature of a country.
All statutes that have been passed by the legislature are good examples of written laws.
But Unwritten laws refer to those laws that are not enacted by the legislature.
A good example of unwritten law is customary law.