What Is Law?


Law is a system of rules that a society develops to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. In addition to providing protection from physical harm, laws serve as the framework for a culture’s beliefs and values. A law can also be a specific type of rule, such as one that makes it illegal to smoke in public or to use profanity. A person who violates a law may be punished by the state or by a private company.

Legal systems vary from nation to nation. In most cases, the country’s political leaders are able to determine which laws will be in force. However, the law is influenced by a variety of factors, including cultural values, the history of the nation’s politics, and the country’s economic situation. In addition, the nature of the legal system is often determined by the people who make it up: The country’s citizens, for example, may want a more democratic government or greater rights for individuals.

The most important function of a government is to enforce the laws. This is done through the judicial branch, which oversees both civil and criminal matters. A judiciary that is efficient, effective, and independent is essential to the rule of law. A democracy with well-functioning courts allows citizens to have confidence in the justice system and in their ability to solve their own disputes.

In addition to the judicial branch, a country’s legal system includes administrative branches that manage the flow of cases through the court and maintain its records. The chief judge of a court usually has primary responsibility for its administration and may decide cases in addition to his or her administrative duties. Court clerks help with case processing and provide records to lawyers and the public.

Attorneys may object to a question or statement made during a trial. A lawyer’s objection may be based on improper procedure, hearsay (evidence that is not directly known by the witness), or other grounds. A judge may allow or deny the objection.

Probation officers screen applicants for pretrial release and monitor convicted offenders released under court supervision. Probation officers may also administer oaths and other ceremonies. Public defenders represent defendants in criminal cases who cannot afford to hire their own attorneys. They may also defend civil lawsuits on behalf of the state.

restraining order – A temporary court order that prevents a party from doing something that is likely to cause irreparable injury or damage. Unlike an injunction, a restraining order can be granted without a hearing.

tort – A civil wrong, such as negligence or wrongful death, that results in damage or injury to another. For example, driving while under the influence of alcohol is a tort.

legal power – The ability of a person or entity to alter normative positions, relations, or laws. Claims and privileges are first-order norms, determining what right-holders ought to do or may do; powers and immunities are second-order norms, indicating whether parties have the ability to change other norms.