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Nulla poena sine lege
(875 words)

The legal maxim of “no penalty without a law” (Latin: nulla poena sine lege) comprises several manifestations of criminal law in states governed by the rule of law: it prohibits the retroactive application of criminal laws, the application of customary law to justify penalties or aggravate them, and analogy to the detriment of the perpetrator; it also requires linguistic and juristic certainty in criminal laws. The Latin formula was coined by P. J. A. Feuerbach (1801) [2. § 20], but the idea has deep roots, especially with respect on the prohibition of ex post facto law [6. 17–25]. In…

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Oestmann, Peter, “Nulla poena sine lege”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 26 February 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_024871>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20200128

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