What is the difference between statutory & regulatory?

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Lawyers in training learn that there are three types of law that govern the U.S., statutory, case and administrative law. The legislative bodies of the federal and state governments create statutory law. Case law is created by the courts in every court decision handed down. It is an extension of statutory law.

Administrative law is also known as regulatory law and is written to govern the agencies and programs administered by the federal and state governments. Regulatory law and statutory law are often confused. However, they are quite different.


Statutory laws are the acts and statutes that make up our legal system. They start as bills placed before the legislative bodies of states and the U.S. Congress. Once approved by the legislatures, the new law becomes a part of the statutory law. Regulatory laws are the codes, policies and procedures that government agencies follow in performing their bureaucratic duties. The U.S. Tax Code is an example of regulatory law. Regulatory laws are also created by legislative bodies. In fact, regulatory law is a part of the statutory law.

Areas of Law

Although they originate from the same body of government, statutory and regulatory laws represent two different areas of law. Statutory law represents criminal and civil law, while regulatory law is public law and is administrative.


According to the U.S. Library of Congress, regulatory laws function as the rules and procedures that governments follow, as well as aiding in enforcing the law. Yes, statutory laws have penalties for violating the statutes and acts. However, the bodies charged with enforcing the laws need their own rules and regulations for enacting those penalties. In this way, a regulatory law enforces the statutory laws.


Regulatory laws do have penalties, contrary to belief. The administrative code for any given body offers penalties for violation of the rules and regulations. In this way, not even the bodies charged with enforcing regulatory laws are exempt from penalties for violating the code. Crimes that are more heinous may come under the jurisdiction of criminal law in the statutory realm. Examples include an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) official who embezzle funds and judges who commit criminal acts.