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What Is the Penal Code?

Every country or state has its own list of what constitutes a crime, and what corresponds as its punishment. It is possible for this list to be codified and recognized as an official code to adhere to for law enforcement agencies and its subsequent officers. Such a list is referred to as a penal code.

In the United States, a state may have a penal code that is different from that of another state due to the type of federalist government system employed. As much as most countries have their own version of a penal code, some countries do not have this form of codified list of crimes and punishments. This codified list is often found in book form or some other type of publication that is accessible to all. The crimes and punishments listed are numbered in order to make it easier and more convenient for people, especially law enforcement officers, to refer to.

Because penal codes constitute the crimes and punishments of a single jurisdiction only, it is possible for such codes to overlap on several levels—local, regional, federal, national. For example, a state law may prohibit smoking near public schools and areas that are densely populated by children. A regional or local law may also provide the same provision in its penal code. However, it is also necessary to take into account where the offense of a penal code took place. The violation must take place in a jurisdiction whose penal code recognizes it to be a violation.

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