ex post facto law


ex post facto law

      law that retroactively makes criminal conduct that was not criminal when performed, increases the punishment for crimes already committed, or changes the rules of procedure in force at the time an alleged crime was committed in a way substantially disadvantageous to the accused.

      The Constitution of the United States (Constitution of the United States of America) forbids Congress and the states to pass any ex post facto law. In 1798 it was determined that this prohibition applies only to criminal laws and is not a general restriction on retroactive legislation. Implicit in the prohibition is the notion that individuals can be punished only in accordance with standards of conduct that they might have ascertained before acting. The clause also serves, in conjunction with the prohibition of bills of attainder, as a safeguard against the historic practice of passing laws to punish particular individuals because of their political beliefs. In 1867, in Cummings v. Missouri and Ex parte Garland, the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court of the United States) condemned as both bills of attainder and ex post facto laws the passage of post- American Civil War loyalty-test oaths, which were designed to keep Confederate sympathizers from practicing certain professions.

      The policies underlying ex post facto laws are recognized in most developed legal systems, reflected in the civil law maxim nulla poena sine lege (“no punishment without law”), a principle whose roots are embedded in Roman law. In England Parliament is not prohibited from passing ex post facto laws. However, following the common-law (common law) tradition, judges have refused to interpret legislation retroactively unless Parliament has clearly expressed such an intention.

      The prosecution of Nazi (Nazi Party) leaders at the Nürnberg trials following World War II for the crime of aggressive war—a crime specifically defined for the first time in the Allied charter creating the International Military Tribunal for war criminals—provoked extensive discussion over the scope and applicability of the principle against retroactive criminal laws.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ex post facto law — n: a civil or criminal law with retroactive effect; esp: a law that retroactively alters a defendant s rights esp. by criminalizing and imposing punishment for an act that was not criminal or punishable at the time it was committed, by increasing …   Law dictionary

  • Ex post facto law — An ex post facto law (from the Latin for after the fact ) or retroactive law, is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of acts committed or the legal status of facts and relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the… …   Wikipedia

  • ex post facto law — /eks powst faektow 16/ A law passed after the occurrence of a fact or commission of an act, which retrospectively changes the legal consequences or relations of such fact or deed. A law is unconstitutionally ex post facto if it deprives the… …   Black's law dictionary

  • ex post facto law — /eks powst faektow 16/ A law passed after the occurrence of a fact or commission of an act, which retrospectively changes the legal consequences or relations of such fact or deed. A law is unconstitutionally ex post facto if it deprives the… …   Black's law dictionary

  • Ex post facto law — Ex post facto Ex post fac to, or ||Ex postfacto Ex post fac to ([e^]ks p[=o]st f[a^]k t[ o]). [L., from what is done afterwards.] (Law) From or by an after act, or thing done afterward; in consequence of a subsequent act; retrospective. {Ex post… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ex post facto law — ex post fac|to law [ˌeks pəust ˈfæktəu ˌlo: US poust ˈfæktou ˌlo:] n law [Date: 1700 1800; : Latin; Origin: from a thing done afterward ] a law that makes a particular action into a crime, and then punishes people who took that action before it… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • ex post facto law — A law which, in its operation, makes that criminal which was not so at the time of the act, or which increases the punishment, or, in short, which, in relation to the offense or its consequences, alters the situation of a party to his… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • ex post facto law — noun (C) law a law that makes a particular action into a crime, and then punishes people who took that action before it had legally become a crime …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • ex post facto law — noun : a criminal or penal statute that imposes a punishment for an act not punishable when committed, or alters to the defendant s disadvantage the punishment prescribed at the time of the act, or takes away from the substantial protection… …   Useful english dictionary

  • ex post facto law — noun a law passed after an alleged crime has been committed which, if applied, would work to the disadvantage of a person accused of that crime …   Australian English dictionary


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