Legal Dictionary

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Common Law Crime

A common law crime is a crime that is punishable under the common law, rather than by statutory law. For example, in some states assisted-suicide is not specifically prohibited by statute. In those states, the prosecution would have to rely on common law (law contained in court opinions) to obtain a conviction. In California, however, Penal Code section 401 specifically prohibits assisted suicide. Therefore, the defendant would be charged under that penal code section.