What are the legal system differences between Italy and United States?

Italy and the United States, despite their shared commitment to the rule of law and protecting citizens’ rights, exhibit distinct legal systems and laws. These variances encompass areas such as criminal law, civil law, commercial law, and constitutional law, resulting in unique legal frameworks in each country.

Italy employs a civil law system, grounded in a comprehensive set of written laws and codes. Influenced by Roman law and the Napoleonic Code, this system emphasizes a systematic and codified approach to law-making. Conversely, the United States follows a common law system, predominantly based on judicial decisions and legal precedents. Evolving from English common law, this system prioritizes judicial decisions, offering flexibility but less predictability compared to Italy’s approach.

Constitutional Differences: Codified Constitution in Italy vs. Written Constitution in the United States

Moreover, the constitutional frameworks of Italy and the U.S. differ significantly. Italy’s constitution, being codified, serves as the supreme law and establishes a clear framework for legal principles. In contrast, the U.S. Constitution, though written, focuses more on the separation of powers, distributing authority between federal and state governments. This distribution is further influenced by legal precedents set by past court cases, shaping the interpretation of constitutional principles.

Regarding governmental structures, Italy operates under a unitary system, granting complete authority to the central government over legal and administrative matters. In contrast, the United States adopts a federal system where power is shared between the central government and individual states, each having its own set of laws and judicial systems.

Practical Implications and International Influence

These foundational differences have practical implications. For instance, in commercial law, an Italian company might strictly follow specific written regulations for contract enforcement, while an American company could lean on previous court decisions. Similarly, in civil rights cases, Italian courts might adhere closely to codified laws, whereas U.S. courts could interpret laws through the prism of constitutional principles and past rulings.

The historical development of these legal systems also offers insightful contrasts. Italy’s legal tradition, characterized by its codified and systematic nature, stands in stark contrast to the precedent-driven, interpretative nature of U.S. law. Additionally, these differences extend their influence to international legal relations, with each country applying its unique legal approach to international treaties and trade agreements, thus affecting multinational legal disputes.


In summary, while the legal systems of Italy and the United States exhibit significant differences in their approach to law-making and governmental structures, both are steadfast in their commitment to the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. These distinctions are crucial not only for understanding domestic legal procedures but also for their pivotal role in international legal interactions.