Law is the rules that govern the conduct of people and organizations. These rules are known as laws or statutes and can be either public or private.
A law is a rule of behavior that is considered right or important by the majority for moral, religious, or emotional reasons. In most nations, the law is created and enforced by a government.
The word law comes from the Latin phrase lege, which means “law” or “rule.” A legal system is an ordered collection of laws that form a legal culture. A country’s legal system may serve to (1) keep the peace, (2) maintain the status quo, (3) preserve individual rights, (4) protect minorities against majorities, (5) promote social justice, and (6) provide for orderly social change.
Among the main branches of law are civil law, criminal law, property law, and administrative law. Each of these areas deals with different issues such as property, contracts, and money.
Lawyers are professionals who are licensed by a government to practice law. They are required by law to have a special qualification (such as a degree in law or a doctorate) and a distinct professional identity.
Some lawyers specialize in certain fields, such as immigration or nationality law. Others practice a broad range of law.
For example, lawyers who specialize in intellectual property law can be involved in patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. In some countries, the profession of law is overseen by an independent regulating body such as a bar association or bar council.
Courts are the governing bodies that decide lawsuits and other disputes between individuals and institutions. They employ a staff of lawyers, judges, clerks and other judicial personnel.
Appeals are requests to a higher court to review a trial or judgment that was decided by a lower court. An appeal can be taken for a variety of reasons, including improper procedure and asking the court to change its interpretation of the law.
The Supreme Court and the highest courts in each state are called justices.
A criminal case is a suit filed by the state or federal government against a person for breaking the law. A prosecutor attempts to convince a judge that the defendant is guilty of a crime, while a defense attorney tries to prove that the defendant is not guilty.
Criminal laws vary significantly from state to state, but Congress has codified federal criminal law in the U.S. Code, which is also referred to as the “law of the land.”
Probation or pretrial release is an alternative sentencing for defendants who have been convicted of crimes and are sentenced to serve a period of time in jail. A probation officer screens applicants for these programs and monitors them as they complete their sentences under supervision.
Precedent is the authority that courts use to determine how other law should apply in a particular situation. It is based on decisions of other courts that have similar facts and law. Some precedents are binding, meaning that they must be followed. Other precedents are influential but not necessarily binding.