Difference between substantial and procedural laws

Difference between substantial and procedural laws

Procedural laws

Procedural law provides the process that a case will go through (whether it goes to trial or not). The procedural law determines how a proceeding concerning the enforcement of substantive law will occur. Substantive law defines how the facts in the case will be handled, as well as how the crime is to be charged. In essence, it deals with the substance of the matter. Even though both are affected by Supreme Court opinions and subject to constitutional interpretations, each serves a different function in the criminal justice system.

How much detail is required for each phase of the criminal procedures will vary depending on the nature of your charges and what agency is prosecuting you. For example, Texas has a bi-furcated trial system where first you must be found guilty, and then the jury can hear punishment evidence. A jury is given a range of punishment to assess in your case. The range of punishment for a first degree felony is not less than five years and up to ninety-nine years or life. This is in stark contrast to the federal procedural law. Federal judges assess punishment and are required to utilize federal sentencing guidelines instead of a wide range system. A federal defendant’s criminal history will be researched and summarized in a report by a federal probation officer. It’s much easier to predict what your sentence will be in the federal system because the punishment procedures are based on a point system.

Substantive Law and It’s elements

Substantive law, on the other hand, deals with the “substance” of your charges. Every charge is comprised of elements. Elements are the specific acts needed to complete a crime. Substantive law requires that the prosecutor prove every element of a crime in order for someone to be convicted of that crime. What elements are required will depend on the crime with which you are charged and the state’s substantive laws. For example, for a felony driving while intoxicated charge, most states require prosecutors to prove that:

  • You were driving or operating a motor vehicle;
  • On a public roadway;
  • While you were intoxicated;
  • And that you have prior convictions for driving while intoxicated.

Order vs decree

Law implies a body of rules which are recognized by a country to govern the action and behavior of the citizens. It can be grouped as substantive law – that ascertains the rights of the parties and procedural/adjective law – that determines the practice, procedure and machinery to implement the rights and duties. On the grounds of decree or order, a judgment is passed by the court. An order is nothing but a judgment while a decree is a final part of judgement.

The primary difference between decree and order is that the decree is given in a suit, which determines the substantive legal rights of the parties concerned, the order is given in the course of proceedings, and determines the procedural legal rights of the parties concerned.


As per section 2(2) of Code of Civil Procedure 1908, a decree is a legal pronouncement of an adjudication by the court, that ascertains the rights of the plaintiff and defendant, about all or any matters of the suit. It is derived from the judgment, i.e. a decree comes into being as and when the judgment is expressed and not on the date when it is duly signed and authorized.

A decree can be a preliminary or a final one, subject to the further proceedings required before the disposal of the suit. If in case any of the matters of the suit is resolved, then it is a preliminary decree, while when all the matters of the suit are resolved, it is termed as the final decree. A preliminary decree is not based on the final, but the final decree is based on the preliminary decree.




The order can be defined as the legal declaration of the decision, by the judge or the panel of judges in the court, which does not include a decree, ascertaining the legal relationships between the plaintiff and defendant, of the court proceedings, trial or appeal.

In finer terms, an order is the direction given by the judge or court to a party to the suit, to perform a specific act or refrain him/her from doing certain acts or direct the public official to take certain actions, is known as an order.

An order is concerned with procedural aspects such as impleadment, adjournment, amendment or striking out of parties of the contesting parties.

The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 defines both decree and order which are given by the civil court, and formally express a decision, in matters of controversy between the opposing parties. While a decree finally decides the rights of the plaint and defendant, order may or may not clearly determine the rights.

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