We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

If a crime has been committed then a law is passed after the crime is committed, do courts follow the old or the new law when trying the case?

March 2017:

It's a general principle of law that criminal laws cannot be applied retroactively - that is to say, something that if something wasn't a criminal violation when the act occurred, then it cannot be prosecuted as a criminal act. If there's no law against kicking you in the shins on Monday, when I kicked you in the shins, but on Tuesday such a law passes, I'm free and clear.

It gets a little more complicated when something is already illegal, but a statute is passed that changes the definition of the crime or the punishment for the crime. Generally speaking, if the definition of the crime or the classification of the crime is changed, the prior law will be the one most likely applied -- as it was the law that was in effect when the act occurred. If the new law applies a greater punishment, then again the old law will be followed. If, however, the law applies a lesser punishment, then it will likely be up to the judge's discretion which to apply during sentencing.

The general rule of thumb would be that you apply the law as it was in existence when the act was committed, unless there is a strong argument otherwise that does not unduly prejudice the defendant. ..Source.. by Cliff Gilley, J.D. Criminal Law & Intellectual Property Law, Seattle University School of Law (2000)

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