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Statutes are written laws passed by a legislative body, declaring, commanding or prohibiting something. Although United States law has its origin in the British common law system, statutes now form the mainstay of the law, with the power to modify other statutes and the common law. In the criminal law, legislators codify the laws and the courts then interpret these laws through criminal procedure to determine the outcome of individual criminal cases.

Statutes are usually organized by subject matter and published in books called codes. Each state will have a number of codes, including a criminal code. Federal statutes are organized by subject matter into collections called titles, a number of which compose the United States Code. U.S. Code, Title 18 is composed of the federal statues which address criminal law.

In criminal law, statutes can be declaratory, in which case they uphold prior statutes or the common law, or remedial, in which case they attempt to correct the common law or other statutes where something has been found wanting, either by enlarging previous laws or restraining them to what has been found just and proper. Penal statutes either order or prohibit a thing, and carry with them a penalty for failure to obey.

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