What Is the Law?


The Law is a set of rules that is created and enforced by governments to regulate behavior. When a person breaks the law, they may face punishment, such as a fine or jail time. Laws can be made by a group legislature, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established by judges, as with common law jurisdictions. Laws can also be created by private individuals, for instance through contracts and arbitration agreements.

Laws serve four main purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Many different theories of law exist, including utilitarian, retributive and natural.

An important concept is that laws must be impartial; they cannot favor one individual over another. The Bible teaches that “thou shalt not respect persons in judgment” (Deuteronomy 16:18).

Other key concepts are precedent and legal writing. Precedent is a previous court decision that must be followed, absent a compelling reason and significant differences in facts or issues. Legal writing is the written record of a case, typically submitted by the lawyer to a judge in advance of the trial. A judge then uses this document, or transcript, to determine how to proceed during the trial and make a decision.

Other types of laws include tort law, which provides compensation to victims for injury or loss; intellectual property, which protects inventions and creative works; and criminal law, which deals with crimes against people and the environment. Other key areas are criminal procedure, civil law and judicial ethics.

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