Law is the set of rules that form a framework to ensure a peaceful society. These rules are enforced by mechanisms created by the state and if broken sanctions can be imposed. Some laws are universal while others are restricted to certain groups of people or specific activities.
In general, the law applies to all members of a nation regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or social status. There are exceptions, however, as for example in the case of juvenile law which applies only to those under a particular age. There are also laws that apply only to women and those who work in certain professions.
A country’s legal system may be based on common law, civil law, or criminal law. Common law systems are found in England and the United States while civil law systems are present in most of Europe and in China. Criminal law is a worldwide system that encompasses both the international law of war and the national laws on criminal procedure.
Other types of law include:
administrative law – The law that governs the operation of government agencies, including the administration of justice and the conduct of business. judicial law – The law that judges apply to cases and issues before them during trials. legislative law – The laws passed by legislatures.
common law – The system of law developed in the English-speaking world through a centuries-long process of trial and error. It includes a series of legal principles that guide courts in the interpretation of statutes and constitutional provisions.
precedent – A court decision in an earlier case with facts and law similar to those in a dispute now before the court. A court’s decision in such a case is usually guided by the precedent unless the party can show that it was wrongly decided or that it differed in significant way from the earlier case.
evidence – A written statement presented to a judge and jury that tends to prove the facts of a case. In criminal cases, evidence may consist of testimony from witnesses or documents such as police reports and laboratory analysis.
counterclaim – A claim made by the defendant against the plaintiff in a lawsuit. It is often filed in the same proceedings as the plaintiff’s claims.
continuance – The decision by the judge to postpone the trial of a case until a later date.
conviction – A finding by the jury that the defendant has committed a crime. It may be a guilty verdict or not guilty.
legal aid – The provision by a government agency of legal services to those who can’t afford to hire a private attorney in criminal or civil proceedings.
restraining order – A ruling by a court that prevents a person from doing something that could cause irreparable harm, such as filing a lawsuit without first notifying the other party.
The study of law includes the analysis of the role of this system in a nation’s politics. It can be used to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, and promote social change. Some legal systems do a better job at these goals than others do.