The principle of legality in criminal law: formulation, definition, goals, problems and strict compliance with legal norms by authorities

Essence of the principle

The basic principles of law are justice, equality, legality, etc. Legality is a requirement for compliance with legal regulations, which is enshrined and proclaimed by law. Along with the general requirements, its essence is manifested in the behavior of a person in a specific situation, the behavior of power subjects, as well as subjects of management, becoming the method of their work. Based on the actions taken, the result is a social regime of life, manifested in the observance or execution of legal regulations.

The principle of legality in criminal law and other fields is a distinctive state of the activity performed. Law enforcement and law enforcement activities are the carriers of its content.

The content of the principle of legality in criminal law and other areas is the compliance of human activities with the norms established by the state. To implement its content, a special regime is applied, which is the legitimacy of relations in society, compliance of behavior with the letter of the law.

The essence of the principle of legality of law in Russian law is conscientious, responsible compliance, use, application, execution of the rules of law, expressed in the active participation of citizens in the management of public or state affairs within legal limits.

Legality in sentencing

One of the principles of imposing criminal punishment is compliance with the requirements of the General Part of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. We have already completed coursework

criminal law (general part) in more detail (for example, in case of aggregation of crimes or sentences, suspended sentence) and the limits established by the sanction of the article of the Special Part of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Part 1 of Article 60 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Thus, when assigning punishment, the court should also comply with the general and special norms of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, i.e. act legally.

The principle of legality extends its effect not only to the imposition of punishment, but also to the application of other criminal legal measures - educational influence, medical measures, which can also be prescribed only in accordance with the law.

Communication with the state

The connection between the principle of legality in criminal law and the state is expressed in the division of people into territories and the existence of public authority. The division of people into territorial units leads to the regulation of legal norms applied in a particular territorial unit by central and local authorities.

Legality as the basic principle of the implementation of law forms a hierarchy of norms, which is implemented in laws or by-laws, subordination, compliance with legal norms that are established by authorities at the highest or central levels.

Also, the connection between legality in criminal law and the state is expressed in the consideration and decision by state bodies and their officials of specific legal issues relevant to the lives of citizens. For their part, citizens are obliged to fulfill the duties that are prescribed for them in the law.

The next criterion for the connection of legality in criminal law with the state is the universal obligation of compliance with this principle by all state bodies, their officials, organizations, and citizens.

The relationship between the principle and the state itself determines their interaction and mutual influence.

Commentary to Art. 3 of the Criminal Code

1. The principle of legality in Art. 3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation assumes that no one can be held criminally liable and punished for an act that was not recognized as a crime at the time of its commission. In accordance with Part 1 of Art. 1 of the Criminal Code of Russia, the list of criminal acts cannot be established by any legal act other than a published and entered into force criminal law. Law enforcers, including state bodies and their officials, local government bodies, and courts, due to the direct prohibition of the Constitution of the Russian Federation (Part 3 of Article 15), cannot apply laws that have not been officially published.

2. Punishment for a crime committed is imposed within the limits and amounts established by criminal law. Given in Art. 44 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the list of types of punishment is complete, i.e. the court has no right to impose a punishment not specified in this list.

3. Along with punishment, only the criminal law determines other criminal legal consequences of committing a crime. This applies, for example, to the expungement and removal of a criminal record, compulsory measures of a medical or educational nature, exemption from criminal liability and punishment.

4. In part 2 of Art. 3 of the Criminal Code of Russia indicates the inadmissibility of applying criminal law by analogy. The analogy of the law is the case when a socially dangerous act committed, not provided for by a specific article of the Code, is classified under the article that is most similar in type of crime. Only the legislator has the right to fill any gaps in the law by changing or supplementing the law.

Universality and Unity

These components of the principle of legality in constitutional law and other branches of law are more closely interconnected than others.

Universality is defined as the obligatory observance of the principle of legality by all subjects, regardless of their rank or position. Equality of all before legal norms presupposes submission to it.

Unity, in turn, lies in the spread of this principle throughout the territory of the state, including all its parts (subjects, municipalities). Also, unity presupposes a uniform understanding of the laws and other acts of a normative and legal nature issued, as well as the uniformity of their application.

Unity also includes the complementary activities of law-making, law enforcement and law enforcement agencies. The implementation by bodies of the principle of unity lies in the unity of activities of all these bodies.

The implementation of the principle of unity in the sphere of uniformity of understanding is carried out by issuing law-making bodies, other (official) jurists of comments on legislation, other acts of an explanatory nature (for example, clarifications, Resolutions of the Plenums of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, etc.).

Concept of principles of criminal law

The principles of law represent the fundamental principles of the process of its formation, development and functioning. They characterize not only the essence, but also the content of the rules of law, as well as the process of their application. The principles serve as the main guideline; the level of coherence, stability and efficiency of the legal system of society directly depends on the degree of their compliance.

Definition 1

Criminal legal principles are the initial provisions used in the fight against crime, mandatory for legislation, law enforcement agencies and citizens.

The following features of the principles of criminal law are distinguished:

  1. stability and immutability throughout the validity of the law;
  2. imperative nature, since regulatory requirements are strictly mandatory and do not allow derogations;
  3. extension to the entire normative act, to all its norms without exception;
  4. conciseness and brevity, high level of generalization;
  5. specificity and clarity, not allowing for ambiguous understanding and interpretation.

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The practical significance of the principles of criminal law lies, first of all, in the fact that on their basis the goals of this branch of legislation are formed, the main directions of combating crime are developed, and the forms and methods of implementing regulations are determined. Taking into account the principles, various institutions of criminal law function, and the nature of their interaction is established.

Law supremacy

Law is the highest form of protection and expression of people's freedoms and rights. This is due to the following: it is characteristic of a rule-of-law state that law comes first, occupying a leading position in all spheres of social life.

The principle of the rule of law and law is directly enshrined in the Russian Constitution. The protection of this principle in terms of compliance with the requirements of the Constitution lies with the Russian judicial system.

The principle of supremacy is the leading principle of a legal society and state. It determines all other principles of legality. Public relations in all areas are regulated exclusively by legal documents that have supreme legal force. All other acts only reveal and specify the principles and rules of conduct set forth in these acts.

Deviation from compliance with constitutional requirements and laws based on it provokes the development of anti-legal and deformation processes. Therefore, the primacy of norms and law is closely related to the formation of a correct rule of law state.

The principle of legality also implies that the rules of conduct set forth in the norms will regulate not only the behavior of all participants in public and state legal relations, but also determine the boundaries of these rules. This is implemented in lawmaking and law enforcement.

The rule of law as a principle of legality represents the hierarchy of normative legal acts issued by law-making subjects. This principle is enshrined in the Russian Constitution (as a source of law of the highest legal force).

Supremacy determines the correct functioning of the state with subordination to laws and the implementation by subjects of law of their rights, duties and responsibility for this.

The supremacy protects subjects of law from arbitrariness, as well as from the use of legal norms by officials in their own interests. In addition, it protects against non-compliance with the law by officials.

Inadmissibility of contrasting legality with expediency

The problem of the principle of legality in criminal law lies in the violation by some subjects of the concept of the inadmissibility of opposing this principle to moral considerations.

The inappropriateness of the current law is determined by law-making bodies, which create a new norm to replace the old one, which has lost its value and expediency.

Before the new law comes into force, the old one, no matter how inappropriate it may be, is in full force.

The expediency of legal norms is constantly monitored and analyzed in order to timely make the necessary amendments dictated by the times and changes occurring in society and the state.

Judicial discretion and the principle of legality

The imperative nature of the norms of criminal law does not exclude some dispositive principles, the most significant of which is the discretion of the judge. The forms of its manifestation are

  • resolving issues based on the assessment criteria of a crime (grave consequences, cruel treatment)
  • determination of the type and amount of punishment (taking into account the nature, degree of public danger, information about the identity of the perpetrator).

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The inextricable link between legality and culture

An important principle is the connection with culture. An increase in the cultural level of society is followed by an increase in the level of legality. All rules of behavior and levers for regulating social relations are aimed at building a correct and healthy state in which crimes are very rare.

In addition, the connection between these concepts is determined based on the fact that the rules of law are created, first of all, for the state and its citizens. Therefore, the connection between human social culture and legality is obvious and inextricable.

Second commentary to Art. 3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation

1. The principle of legality, being constitutional, includes two important provisions known to mankind since ancient times:

1) there is no crime without indication of it in the law;

2) there is no punishment unless specified in the law.

The essence of the first is that only criminal law, i.e. The current Criminal Code establishes which acts (actions or inactions) are considered criminal. The punishability of an act follows from its criminality and is also determined by criminal law. The Code provides an exhaustive list of types of punishment with a precise indication of the conditions and limits of its application.

3. The commented article contains another important provision: the application of criminal law by analogy is not allowed. Thus, the law excludes the possibility of bringing to criminal liability for similar acts, but not directly provided for in the Criminal Code, even if they are socially dangerous.

Law and order

Legal order (as one of the results of the implementation of the principle of legality) is an orderly state of relations in society, which is based on law and justice. In addition, this is the result of compliance by the subjects of relations with legal norms, implementation of regulations and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Violation of the principle of legality and legal norms entails certain liability. Therefore, the rule of law is the practice of fulfilling and applying legal requirements specified in the rules.

The rule of law is the goal of the legal regulation of social relations. To achieve this goal, law-making entities issue normative acts and take measures for their implementation and protection.

Thanks to law and order, society maintains stable and strong relationships that contribute to the realization of the interests of all its members. Being the embodiment of a system of stable social relations, order in a legal society is considered a way of life, reflecting the idea of ​​social equality and justice for all citizens.

As part of the social order, the legal order is the basis for the regulatory action of part of the social norms related to the sphere of law. Therefore, as an element of a system of social relations, law and order is a social value.

Law and order

Law and order

- the order of relations established in society, regulated by the rules of law, and based on their strict observance, on the principles of legality. Law and order is protected by the state.


  • 1) precise and strict compliance with the law; according to the Constitutions of Russia and Tatarstan, it is a principle of state activity and one of the main responsibilities of citizens;
  • 2) a regime in which the law prevails in any socially significant activity; legality is an indispensable element of democracy.

All citizens, officials, state and public organizations without exception are required to observe the rule of law The highest supervision over the rule of law is exercised by the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation and the prosecutors of the constituent entities of the federation subordinate to him, including the prosecutor of the Republic of Tatarstan, as well as cities and districts.

No developed society can exist without strict implementation of laws. What good is it for society if laws are not enforced? The English philosopher John Locke (1632 - 1704) very aptly remarked on this matter: “Make but few laws, but see that they are observed.” Accurate and strict observance of legal norms by all persons without exception is called legality.

Legality is like a dam that holds back arbitrariness and lawlessness. Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus (late 6th and early 5th centuries BC) Fr. As soon as a small crack appears, through which this lawlessness will wash its way, the entire dam will perish, it will develop new cracks, and a powerful stream will carry it away. Legality is strong as long as there are no cracks or holes in it. Many centuries ago, the French king Francis I uttered the words that have now become famous: “Fiat justitia et pereat mundus!” The translation sounds strange at first glance: “Let justice prevail, even if the world perishes!” Why should justice triumph if the world is destroyed? Whose day should we celebrate then? These words, in our opinion, should be understood as follows: if justice and law triumph, then the world, on the contrary, will not perish.

The highest noble goal cannot be achieved through illegal means.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (470/469-399 BC) taught us a lesson in the absolute coincidence of the proclaimed principles and their practical implementation.

... In his declining years, Socrates was accused of atheism (denial of the gods of Olympus, Zeus himself). During the trial he behaved independently and with dignity. An Athens court sentenced the philosopher to death. On the eve of his execution, his friend Crito visited him in prison and suggested that he escape, since he had condemned him unfairly. But Socrates, a wise and truthful man, believed that this would be dishonest: it is better to submit to someone else’s injustice than to commit it yourself. And he answered: “... If, just as we were about to run away from here... suddenly the Laws and the State itself came and, blocking our way, asked: “Tell me, Socrates, what are you up to?” By the act you are trying to commit, have you not intended to destroy... the Laws and the entire State? Or, in your opinion, can that state still stand intact and unharmed, in which court sentences have no force, but at the will of private individuals become invalid, and why, since you will die anyway? Socrates replied: “To know her before death.”

The death of Socrates was not evidence of stupid obedience to the law, but became one of the forms of the struggle for justice. Escape and thereby turn the sentence into nothing, make it invalid. This means is low and unworthy of a person, which means it cannot be used. You can achieve a high goal only by right means.

The existing legal order is based on legality.

Legal order is a state of orderly relations in society, regulated by morality, when laws are in effect, the mechanism of legal regulation functions without failures. Legal order is the result of the implementation of the rule of law, the implementation of the requirement of strict compliance and execution of legal norms by all subjects of law (Part 2 of Article 15 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation). The rule of law exists where the regime of legality is actually, practically implemented. Legal order is the result of the rule of law; it expresses the degree of implementation of its requirements.

Legality, as a phenomenon of legal life, is based on certain principles.

Legality is the exact and strict observance of legal norms by all subjects of legal relations.

Basic principles of legality:

  • the rule of law, i.e. compliance of all normative acts with the Constitution and laws (Part 1, Article 15 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation);
  • unity of legality on the territory of the state, uniform understanding and application of laws throughout the territory of the state;
  • equality of citizens before the law, manifested in the equality of the general constitutional legal status of a citizen - the totality of his constitutional rights, freedoms and duties (Part 1 of Article 6 and Part 2 of Article 19 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation).

The means by which the full and consistent implementation of the requirements of legality are ensured are called guarantees of legality (and, accordingly, law and order). Guarantees can be divided into economic, political, spiritual and special legal. Many guarantees are specified in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan.

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