The Difference Between Procedural Law and Substantive Law - Legal Katta
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The Difference Between Procedural Law and Substantive Law

The Difference Between Procedural Law and Substantive Law, procedural law and substantive law, what is substantive law, what is procedural law,


Substantive law and Procedural law are two important divisions in the law. In this article, we will see the difference between procedural law and substantive law. Laws can be divided into two groups-

  1. Substantive Law
  2. Procedural Law 

The substantive law determines the rights and liabilities of the parties. And, the procedural law or adjective law prescribed the practise, procedure and administrative machinery for the enforcement of those rights and liabilities of the parties.

Substantive laws define the legal relationship between different people, or between people and the State. Procedural laws define the rules with which substantive laws may be enforced.

Substantive Law

The substantive law defines the rights and liabilities of the people. Substantive law is a statutory law that deals with the legal relationship between people or the people and the state.

Substantive law refers to how the facts of each case are handled and how to penalize or ascertain damages in each case.

The substantive part of the law establishes the rights, duties and liabilities of individuals with individuals or individuals with the state. 

Substantive law consists of written statutory rules passed by the legislature that governs how people behave in society.

Basic Elements of Substantive Criminal Law

In comparison to procedural criminal law, substantive criminal law involves the “substance” of the charges filed against accused persons. Every charge is made up of elements, or the specific acts that amount to the commission of a crime. Substantive law requires that prosecutors prove beyond all reasonable doubt that every element of crime took place as charged for the accused person to be convicted of that crime.

For example, to secure a conviction for a charge of felony-level driving while intoxicated, prosecutors must prove the following substantive elements of the crime:

  • The accused person was, in fact, the person operating the motor vehicle
  • The vehicle was being operated on a public roadway
  • The accused person was legally intoxicated while operating the vehicle
  • The accused person had prior convictions for driving while intoxicated

Other substantive state laws involved in the above example include:

  • The maximum allowed percentage of alcohol in the accused person’s blood at the time of the arrest
  • The number of prior convictions for driving while intoxicated
  • Both procedural and substantive laws can vary by state and sometimes by county, so persons charged with crimes should consult with a certified criminal law attorney practising in their jurisdiction.

Sources of Substantive Law

In the United States, substantive law comes from the state legislatures and Common Law, or law based on societal customs and enforced by the courts. Historically, Common Law made up sets of statutes and case laws that governed England and the American colonies before the American Revolution.

During the 20th century, substantive laws changed and grew in number quickly as Congress and the state legislatures moved to unify and modernize many principles of Common Law. For example, since its enactment in 1952, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) governing commercial transactions has been fully or partially adopted by all U.S. states to replace the Common Law and differing state laws as the single authoritative source of substantive commercial law.

Procedural Law

Procedural law consists of the set of rules that govern the proceedings of the court in criminal lawsuits as well as civil and administrative proceedings. The court needs to conform to the standards set up by procedural law, while during the proceedings. These rules ensure fair practice and consistency in the "due process".

Procedural laws govern how court proceedings that deal with the enforcement of substantive laws are conducted. Since the primary objective of all court proceedings is to determine the truth according to the best available evidence, procedural laws of evidence govern the admissibility of evidence and the presentation and testimony of witnesses. For example, when judges sustain or overrule objections raised by lawyers, they do so according to procedural laws.

Both procedural and substantive law may be altered over time by Supreme Court rulings and constitutional interpretations.

Application of Criminal Procedural Law

While each state has adopted its own set of procedural laws, usually called a “Code of Criminal Procedure,” basic procedures followed in most jurisdictions include:

  • All arrests must be based on probable cause.
  • Prosecutors file charges that must clearly spell out what crimes the accused person allegedly committed
  • The accused person is arraigned before a judge and given the opportunity to enter a plea, statement of guilt, or statement of innocence.
  • The judge asks the accused whether they need a court-appointed attorney or will supply their own attorney.
  • The judge will either grant or deny the accused bail or bond and set an amount to be paid
  • An official notice to appear in court is delivered to the accused.
  • If the accused and prosecutors cannot reach a plea bargain agreement, trial dates are set
  • If the accused person is convicted at trial, the judge advises them of their rights to appeal
  • In the case of guilty verdicts, the trial moves to the sentencing phase.
  • In most states, the same laws that define criminal offences also set the maximum sentences that can be imposed, from fines to time in jail. However, the state and federal courts follow very different procedural laws for sentencing.

Sources of Procedural Laws

Procedural law is established by each individual jurisdiction. Both the state and federal courts have created their own sets of procedures. Also, county and municipal courts may have specific procedures that must be followed. These procedures typically include how cases are filed with the court, how parties involved are notified, and how official records of court proceedings are handled.

In most jurisdictions, procedural laws are found in publications such as the “Rules of Civil Procedure” and “Rules of Court.” The procedural laws of the federal courts can be found in the “Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”

Powers of Substantive vs. Procedural Laws

Substantive law is an independent set of laws that decide the fate of a case. It can actually decide the fate of the under-trial, whether he wins or loses and even the compensation amounts etc. Procedural laws, on the other hand, have no independent existence. Therefore, procedural laws only tell us how the legal process is to be executed, whereas substantive laws have the power to offer a legal solution.

The Difference Between Procedural Law and Substantive Law

To understand the differences between the structure and content of substantive and procedural law, let's use an example. If a person is accused and undergoing a trial, substantive law prescribes the punishment that the under-trial will face if convicted. Substantive law also defines the types of crimes and the severity depending upon factors such as whether the person is a repeat offender, whether it is a hate crime, whether it was self-defence etc. It also defines the responsibilities and rights of the accused.

The Difference Between Procedural Law and Substantive Law

Few examples of Substantive and Procedural Laws:

Substantive Laws-

1. The Indian Contract Act, 1872

2. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

3. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956

4. Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

5. The Transfer of Property Act, 1882

6. The Factories Act, 1948

7. Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

8. The Law of Torts

9. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (the first part that deals with general principles of law)

10. Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881

11. The Indian Penal Code, 1860

Procedural Laws–

1. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (the second part that deals with orders concerning civil proceedings)

2. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

3. Law of Evidence, 1872

4. The Limitation Act, 1963

Akash is a YouTuber by Hobbie and Blogger by Passion. He Loves to spread information that helps others to live in this legal world.

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