What is Statute Law?

Alexis W.

Statute law is written law passed by legislatures. It is different than judge-made common law or case law. Statute laws are laws that are formally established to deal with specific situations, and written down in code books.

In the United States, the House of Representatives and Senate form the two branches of the legislature, which creates statutory law.
In the United States, the House of Representatives and Senate form the two branches of the legislature, which creates statutory law.

In common law societies such as England, Canada, and the United States, law is made by two distinct bodies. The legislature makes some laws, and judges make other laws. In the US, this distinction is set forth by separation of powers rules in the Constitution.

When the legislature makes a law, it is considered statute law or statutory law. The legislature can make a law on anything that they have the power to govern. In the United States, for example, state legislatures are vested with the power to make laws on property and divorce, among other things, while federal legislatures are allowed to make laws on matters governing interstate commerce and on issues such as international relations.

The legislature, unlike the courts, does not have to have a "case" before it to make a law. If the legislature has the authority to make a law about something and it believes that it is a good idea to make a law, it is permitted to do so. Judges, on the other hand, can only make law when a case comes before them and they make law in the form of establishing precedent in that particular case.

The procedures for making statute law by the legislature differ depending on how the government is set up in the particular country. In the United States, for example, bills are proposed which are suggested laws. The bills must then be approved by the House and the Senate, and signed by the president in most cases, if the law is to be a federal law.

The legislature sets forth a rule in statute law, and that rule eventually becomes the law after passing through the appropriate process and receiving the required number of votes. Eventually, all of the statutory laws are published and codified in code books. Before this occurs, the statutory laws are still the law, but the laws are published in special addendums to existing code books and/or on government websites.

Statues cannot possibly cover every situation and are not always completely clear on their face. As a result, courts can sometimes be called upon to interpret statute law, and/or statutes may create agencies and vest those agencies with the power to interpret the law. Both courts and state agencies must interpret any statutes by understanding the legislature's intent behind the statute and remaining true to the statute's plain language and purpose.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Reading anamur's comments, yes there is an amount of controversy regarding statues and how they are applied to the governed.

Just do a simple search online for a guy called Danny Mire (I think that's his name). He regularly challenges the police on what they can and can't do with their powers of 'investigation'.

Also there is the situation that in the UK for a statute to be in effect that both parties (i.e., the police and the accused) should enter into 'contract'. If the accused decides not to enter into 'contract' with the police. then the statute that the police are trying to effect cannot be done.


There is a lot of discussion and even controversy lately over the difference between statute and law. The difference that is pointed out is that a statute requires the consent of the governed, without this consent, it is not considered law. Apparently, even law makers have forgotten this vital difference and often treat statutes as law.

I think there is a problem with definition and application. Its difficult to understand how the consent of the governed is supposed to be attained for each statute, our legal system appears to have left a gap in this regard. I would love to hear others' opinions on this discussion!


@anon71465-- A statute may be interpreted if its too ambiguous or too general to directly apply to a case. Statutes are often written this way because they have to please everyone and political negotiation results in broadly written statute laws.


Based on the statute law definition, both state legislatures and US Congress can make statutes. What happens if a statute made by a state legislature contradicts or clashes with a statute made by Congress? Which is applied?


why might a court be called upon to interpret a statute?

Post your comments
Forgot password?