Slave codes were the systems of laws developed by states in which slavery was legal to govern the ownership and use of slaves. The District of Columbia slave code defined a slave as “a human being, who is by law deprived of his or her liberty for life, and is the property of another.” Slave codes included definitions of circumstances under which a slave could be owned, outlined punishments that were appropriate for various acts committed by slaves or by persons attempting to aid slaves, described unacceptable relationships between slaves and owners or other free persons, and more. South Carolina's slave code established the death penalty for anyone who did "aid any slave in running away or departing from his master's or employer's service."[
Slave codes were established by individual states but were largely uniform between different state governments.