Law is a system of rules and standards by which people or communities organize society. It serves many purposes, but its four principal functions are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes, and protecting liberties and rights. The way in which these functions are served depends on the type of legal system. For example, laws governing civil rights are different from those governing criminal justice.
Law exists at all levels of human interaction and activity. Governments create and enforce laws at the national level, while individual states within a country may have their own systems of local laws. International organizations also have laws, such as treaties and conventions that govern international trade.
The practice of law involves many people and jobs, from police officers to judges and lawyers. Jurisdiction is the legal authority to hear and decide a case, which can be determined by geographic area or the subject matter of the case. Examples of a jurisdiction include state and federal courts, with the latter having exclusive jurisdiction over cases that involve issues of national importance.
A judge or jury decides a case by examining the evidence presented and making a determination of the facts. The evidence can come from eyewitness testimony or written documents. The evidence must meet certain criteria to be considered valid, such as being credible and relevant. For example, it must be able to influence the fact finder’s decision. Evidence can also be circumstantial, based on other factors that suggest the truth of a witness’s statement.
Attorneys prepare the cases for trial and present them to a judge or jury. They argue the facts of a case and explain how the law applies to the facts. They are usually paid by the party whose case they are defending or prosecuting. Judges often make a final determination of guilt or innocence and determine the appropriate punishment.
After a trial, the plaintiff or defendant can request that another court review the case to see whether it was conducted properly. This is known as an appeal. The person filing the appeal is the appellant.
Statutory law is the set of laws passed by a legislative body, such as a parliament or a legislature. It covers a wide range of subjects, including business, education, health, and safety. Civil law covers the rights and responsibilities between people, while criminal law deals with crimes committed against other people.
The rule of law is a principle that states that all individuals and institutions, public and private, are accountable under laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated. It requires that those laws be consistent with international standards and norms for human rights, property rights, and contract rights. It also requires that the processes by which law is adopted, administered, and adjudicated be accessible, fair, and efficient. It is a basic requirement for democracy and good governance.