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The French Penal Code of 1791 was a penal code adopted under the French Revolution between 25 September and 6 October 1791. It was France's first penal code.

The principle of legality was foremost in the underlying philosophy of the 1791 Code. In the spirit of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria summarized the principles that were to be the foundation of the procedural system. In his words, "every citizen should know what punishment he should endure." As a consequence, the function of the judge was conceived as being strictly distributive: qualification of an act, infliction of the pre-set sanction. This concept was revolutionary in 1791 and clearly parted from the Ancien Régime arbitrary procedures. The code of 1791 in this aspect was simple; most definitions were clear, leaving little power to the interpretation of the judge. This principle was reincorporated in the Napoleonic Penal Code of 1810, which replaced the revolutionary 1791 Code.[1]

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Preceded by

(Ancien Régime)
Penal Code of France
1791 – 1810
Succeeded by
Penal Code of 1810

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