a mandatory rule of social behavior established by the state. Like all of law, a legal norm aims at developing certain social relations in the interests of the ruling class. A legal norm indicates the conditions of its execution, the subjects of the relationships that it regulates, the mutual rights and duties of the subjects, and the sanctions for failure to perform a duty. Legal norms are adopted by authorized state agencies, and they are made binding by the state through the fostering of legal consciousness in its citizens and the application of measures of state coercion to violators of the legal norms. The body of legal norms in a given society constitutes its law.
A legal norm consists of three parts: the hypothesis, which sets forth the conditions under which a person should be guided by the given legal norm; the disposition, which indicates the rights and duties of the participants in relations arising under the circumstances envisioned in the hypothesis; and the sanction, which defines the consequences for persons who violate the prescriptions of a particular norm. In criminal laws, a legal norm usually consists of two parts: a disposition (the elements of a criminally punishable action) and a sanction (the penalty for committing the particular act).
Legal norms are classified according to their legal force, depending on the agencies that issue them (law, decree), according to the object that they regulate (resulting in the division of law into such branches as state, civil, and financial law), and according to the limits of the effect of legal norms in time and space. Legal norms are also divided into “imperative” norms, containing precepts that are compulsory for participants in legal relationships, and “dispositional” norms, allowing the participants to define their rights and duties within the limits established by law. If the parties have not stipulated their rights and obligations in a contract, the rule contained in the given legal norm applies.