Law is the system of rules that a country or community develops in order to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. It also refers to the people who work in this system, such as police officers and judges.
Legal systems differ in the way they are organized, but they all share a common set of principles that govern the conduct of the people. This includes respect for individual rights, ensuring that everyone in a society is treated fairly and avoiding conflict between different groups of people.
There are two main kinds of law, public law and private law. The former is based on laws passed by a government, while the latter relies on contracts and other agreements.
A legal system is often influenced by a constitution and the rights it enshrines, which are codified. This can be done in a written form or in a more tacit way, such as through precedent (Latin for “to stand by”) or decisions of higher courts.
In a constitutionally based legal system, the legislature makes laws and the executive enforces them. These laws are called statutes, while decisions by a judge or barrister interpreting those statutes are known as court judgments or judicial decisions.
Criminal law covers offenses that have a serious effect on the public, such as murder and other crimes. In this branch of law, evidence is often presented to a jury to decide the case.
Civil law covers laws that affect individuals, such as marriage and divorce. These are governed by court judgments and regulations issued by the government or a civil court.
Family law consists of the laws that govern relationships between parents and their children, such as child custody and adoption. It also covers the rights of children, such as inheritance and access to money.
Immigration and nationality law are also concerned with the rights of foreigners to live or work in a nation-state that is not their own. These include citizenship and the right to asylum.
Tax and social security law focuses on the rights of workers, employers and other individuals. This involves taxes, wages and insurance.
In this area of law, there is also a distinction between the courts of “law” and the courts of “equity,” which have authority to decide if a person should be able to continue doing something that has caused them harm.
For example, if someone breaks the law by making obscene phone calls to their partner, they might face a jail term or pay fines.
Law can also be used as a verb, meaning “to act according to the law” or “follow the rules”. This is what is meant when the words “the law” are said, and this is a common way for people to describe what the law does.
Law can be defined as a set of rules that is created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, but its precise definition remains debated. Some believe that it is the art of justice, while others consider it to be a science.