What Is the Difference Between Statutory and Non-Statutory?

If you’ve ever read the news, run or worked for a company, or conducted any sort of legal research, chances are that you’ve encountered the terms “statutory” and “non-statutory.”

And you’ve probably asked yourself, “What’s the difference between statutory and non-statutory?”

We’ll take an in-depth look at those two terms here, we’ll also go over other related topics such as statutory and non-statutory benefits, statutory and non-statutory stocks, the definition of statutory crimes, and examples of statutory crimes.

But first, the answer to your question:

While the word “statutory” refers to something that’s controlled or determined by the law, “non-statutory” describes something that’s based on precedents, customs, and case law.

But people usually just use the term “common law” instead of “statutory.”

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Where do the terms “statutory” and “non-statutory” stem from?


“Statutory” and “non-statutory” can trace their roots to common and civil law systems. Under a civil law system, judges use precedents and case law to decide legal issues, whereas in a common law system they use statutes to determine what’s lawful.

Common law systems have played a larger role in the development and evolution of the law.

For example, in Plessy vs. Ferguson, the US Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was legal, as long as every party had access to equal facilities.

In Brown vs. Board of Education, which was nearly six decades later, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, ruling that segregated schools were unconstitutional and jumpstarting what would become known as the Civil Rights movement.

Both Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Board of Education saw judges relying on previous case law and then-accepted social theories to form an opinion and make their decisions.

What’s a statutory crime?

Some actions are considered crimes when they violate statutes put in place by the government.

For example, there are local and state governments that have set speed limits or passed bans on texting while driving.

bans on texting while driving

Although neither driving over the speed limit nor texting while driving is inherently a crime, they may still lead to a crime if the driver, say, damages property or injures or kills someone as a result of their action.

Thus, we can say that texting while driving and driving over the speed limit is a statutory crime.

In the US, criminal law is statutory law since a person cannot be charged with a crime unless their action is written as a crime in the constitution or general charter.

Examples of statutory crimes

As we’ve established, statutory crimes are crimes prescribed by statute.

There are three significant kinds of statutory crimes: alcohol-related and drug crimes, financial/white-collar crimes, and traffic offenses.

They’re prohibited by statute because society wants to prevent individuals from engaging in these crimes and causing harm.

Alcohol-related and drug crimes

While alcohol-related crimes include various offenses regarding where and how alcohol is allowed to be consumed (e.g., Driving Under the Influence, Public Intoxication, Minor in Possession of Alcohol), drug crimes have to do with involvement in the distribution or creation of drugs (e.g., drug manufacturing, drug possession, drug trafficking).

distribution of drugs

One particular area in criminal law that’s receiving an extensive amount of attention is the prosecution and regulation of drug crimes having to do with medical marijuana.

As a result of state trends that lean towards legalizing medical marijuana, this is currently an area of criminal law that’s drawing controversy and constantly changing.

Financial/white-collar crimes

Typically, financial crimes involve fraud or deception for the sake of financial gain.

Even though the term “white-collar crime” comes from the corporate executives and officers who historically were the culprits of such crimes, any individual in any industry can perpetrate a white-collar crime.

Financial/white-collar crimes include blackmail, tax evasion, cybercrime, embezzlement and money laundering, and many types of fraud.

Traffic offenses

Traffic offenses include crimes involving individuals driving vehicles on public roadways.

Because Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) involve both alcohol and the use of a vehicle, they’re considered both alcohol-related crimes and traffic offenses.

Traffic offense

Other traffic offenses are driving without a license, driving on a suspended or revoked license, reckless driving, hit-and-run accidents, and vehicular assault.

If a traffic offense leads to someone’s death, it might be charged as a significantly more serious crime, like a form of homicide.

What about statutory rape?

Statutory rape is sexual intercourse with an individual who’s under the age of consent, which varies from state to state.

This action is considered rape under the law, whether the underage individual is willing or not, and usually doesn’t involve overt force or threat.

Due to the fact that minors are legally incapable of consenting to sex, the law presumes that any sexual activity with an underage person is coercive.

Additionally, having sexual relations with prepubescent children is typically considered a more serious crime.

It’s considered statutory because the crime is defined by law or statute. However, the majority of laws on this issue aren’t set at the federal level, but at the state level.

What are statutory and non-statutory stocks?

purchases stock

It’s not just crimes and laws that can be considered statutory and non-statutory. There are also statutory and non-statutory stocks.

An employee who purchases stock via an incentive stock option or employee stock program buys statutory stock.

But when that employee purchases stock outside of those programs, those stocks are considered non-statutory.

Although the employee has to pay capital gains taxes on both kinds of stocks, the values placed on them by the IRS are different.

Statutory and non-statutory benefits

In addition to statutory and non-statutory stocks, employees also have access to statutory and non-statutory benefits.

Employers are required by law to allow employees to take leave via the Family Medical Leave Act.

They also need to provide their employees with workers’ compensation coverage.

These are considered statutory benefits because a statute requires the compliance of employers.

retirement plan

However, employers also offer their employees benefits like retirement plans and health benefits, which aren’t required by law and, thus, are considered non-statutory benefits.

The difference between a statutory and non-statutory report

Another use of the terms “statutory” and “non-statutory” has to do with reports produced by companies and organizations.

For example, companies are required to share statutory financial statements that may list information like assets, profits, and losses.

The companies must share this information with customers, shareholders, and government regulatory agencies.

A great deal of information found in statutory reports can also be found in non-statutory reports that company executives use when making decisions.

These reports might contain information that the company’s leaders need but aren’t legally obligated to share with other parties.

So, while statutory reports contain information that’s required by law to be shared with other parties, like customers and government agencies, non-statutory reports detail information that may be important for company leaders when making decisions but aren’t required by law to be shared.

financial statements

Statutory bodies

A statutory body, also known as a statutory authority, is a body set up by statute that’s authorized to implement legislation on a country’s or state’s behalf, sometimes by being delegated or empowered to set rules.

Statutory bodies can usually be found in countries that are governed by British-style parliamentary democracies, such as the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

They can also be found in countries like Israel.

It’s statutory bodies that put laws, or statutes, in place and determines which stocks, benefits, and reports are statutory or non-statutory.