A criminal code is typically the set of laws established by a country, usually through the federal government, which governs the whole of that nation. As such, these laws vary among countries, and the way that federal laws can relate to state, province, or city laws is often dictated by the country in which the laws exist. A criminal code for a country can be established by that country’s constitution or other major document, and is typically explicitly stated for use in federal courts of law and as a source of legal authority.
Depending on the country, a nation’s criminal code can often override the individual laws of the various states or provinces within that country. Other nations may often allow the laws of local regions to override those established by the country’s criminal codes. In Canada, for example, the criminal codes are established by “An Act respecting the criminal law” that, among other things, indicates that polygamy is illegal. There are a number of situations, however, in different provinces throughout Canada of polygamous marriages being entered into legally. In these situations, though the criminal code of the country should override local practices, they instead allow such things to reinforce the mutable nature of the laws.
On the other hand, within the United States (US), the criminal code effectively overrides any state or local laws that contradict what is set down in federal law. This has led to a number of issues with things such as the legalization of marijuana. At a federal level, it is illegal to grow and sell marijuana, but several states have legalized the practice for medicinal purposes. This means that while someone can go through proper channels and legally grow marijuana at a state level, federal agencies can still arrest and charge someone with breaking the US criminal code.
A country’s criminal code can also often be reflective of the history of that nation. In Germany, for example, the rise of the Nazi regime prior to World War II has had a lasting impact on the country’s laws. German criminal code, referred to as the Strafgesetzbuch, has criminalized the display of symbols of unconstitutional organizations such as the Third Reich. This has made the Nazi Swastika an illegal image, and led to a number of video games and other types of entertainment being confiscated. These criminal codes have also established that it is illegal in Germany to deny the genocide committed by the Nazi party.