Criminal law has to do with laws relating to acts committed against the laws of the land, which are punished by the state. It is this latter feature which distinguishes the criminal law from the civil law, which has to do with the legal relationship between formally equal parties, whereas criminal law focuses on the relationship between the state and individual persons subordinate to it, in the field of crime and punishment. The acts and omissions to be marked as criminal, as well as criminal and other sanctions which may be imposed are determined by the criminal law.

One of the concerns of criminal law jurisprudence is the constitution of a criminal justice system characterised by systematic categorisation and uniform conceptual framework in order to be useful for judicial application in practice.