The Basics of Law
Law is a system of rules that governs the actions of people in an organization or society. These rules can be used to regulate activities such as business, religion, or sports.
There are many branches of law, each dealing with a specific aspect of human interaction. For example, tort law deals with disputes between people or their property; contract law defines the rights and obligations of parties to an agreement, including contracts involving goods and services; and property law defines the rights and duties of those who own tangible properties.
In the United States, laws are enacted through the legislative process and then codified in a book known as the United States Code. There are also collections of laws, called compilations, that collate current laws into one volume.
Lawyers are professionals who provide legal advice and counsel to people and organizations on issues related to the law. They are usually regulated by the government or a professional body such as a bar association or law society.
They are required by law to gain a certain level of experience and qualifications before practicing law, and they must be licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. The qualifications typically include passing a qualifying examination, earning a legal degree and being admitted to the bar by a court of law.
A legal person (such as a judge or jury) is an official with the authority to decide lawsuits and other legal disputes. They may be elected, appointed or hired by the state or federal governments.
Appeals – A request to a different court to review the judgment of the original court, often to see if it was done properly. The person making the appeal is called the appellant and he or she can be a plaintiff or a defendant in the case being reviewed.
Jury – A group of men and women who hear evidence in a trial. They decide whether the plaintiff or defendant is guilty of the crime being tried and then issue a verdict.
Precedent – A previous court decision in a similar case that will often be followed as the basis for a later decision. Some precedents are binding, meaning that they must be followed unless a party can show that it was wrongly decided or that it differed in some significant way from the other decision.
Juries sometimes decide based on the facts of the case, or on the opinion of an expert witness. This can help the court make a more informed decision.
A criminal case begins with an arraignment, when a defendant is brought into court and told of the charges against him or her. The defendant is then asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
When a defendant is found guilty of a crime, he or she faces penalties such as fines and jail time. These penalties vary depending on the nature of the offense and the offender’s history. Felonies are considered serious crimes and usually carry substantial prison terms.