criminal law


: the law of crimes and their punishments

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Public nuisance largely addresses property and criminal law. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 24 Mar. 2023 Unlike criminal law, there is no prescribed or mandated punishment. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 16 Feb. 2023 Under criminal law, a person can’t be punished twice. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 Feb. 2023 The justification of acting in support of a good country against an evil oppressor does not translate to criminal law. WIRED, 23 Jan. 2023 The subpoenas were for documents related to the committee's investigation of Krasner and his enforcement of criminal law. Ronn Blitzer, Fox News, 15 Sep. 2022 Progressives championed her in part because of her work as a federal public defender, seeing her as an advocate for soft-on-crime approaches to sentencing and the criminal law. Nr Editors, National Review, 3 Mar. 2022 Even Bowser, who opposed the council's criminal law revisions, asked Congress to let local leaders deal with the issue. Joey Garrison, USA TODAY, 2 Mar. 2023 County prosecutors reviewed Maryland criminal law sections that concern child pornography production, possession and distribution. Sabrina Leboeuf, Baltimore Sun, 31 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'criminal law.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1672, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of criminal law was in 1672

Dictionary Entries Near criminal law

Cite this Entry

“Criminal law.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Legal Definition

criminal law

: public law that deals with crimes and their prosecution compare civil law

Note: Substantive criminal law defines crimes, and procedural criminal law sets down criminal procedure. Substantive criminal law was originally common law for the most part. It was later codified and is now found in federal and state statutory law.

More from Merriam-Webster on criminal law

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!