Law is a set of rules that governs human behaviour, regulating such things as crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It is a complex area of study that has been variously described as a science, an art and the “art of justice”.
Legal systems can serve different purposes in a nation, such as keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, protecting individuals against oppression or majorities, promoting social justice and providing orderly change in society. Some systems are better at these tasks than others, however.
In the United States, criminal laws are made by both the federal government and individual state governments. These laws range from obscene phone calls and murder to tax fraud, corruption of public officials and terrorism.
A criminal conviction requires proof of the actus reus (the act) and mens rea (the mental state) of a person who committed the crime, and the causation between the act and the result, i.e., the act caused the result.
Often, a defendant can plead guilty to a crime in exchange for a lighter sentence or no punishment at all. These pleas are called nolo contendere or no contest and may also be used to show fault in a later lawsuit.
An individual who is convicted of a crime must pay a fine, which can be large or small. They may also be given probation, which allows them to avoid jail time as long as they comply with a number of conditions.
Criminal prosecutions can be a lengthy and expensive process, but they are necessary to protect people from crimes that might otherwise be committed. There are several stages in a criminal trial, including pre-trial proceedings, sentencing hearings and jury trials.
In a court of law, juries are chosen by a judge who determines who will be on the jury. During the trial, each juror decides whether they think the evidence against the accused is sufficient to prove guilt or not.
A judge can challenge any question or statement made by a witness at the trial. Objections usually involve a claim that the answer is hearsay or that the defendant is misleading the jury.
The court will often require the defendant to swear to tell the truth. If he or she refuses to do so, the judge may dismiss the case.
The term “law” can refer to the entire system of rules that a country or society has established to regulate its citizens, but it is more often used to describe a specific set of laws or to the people who work within the system. For example, the murder of a woman is against the law in most places, and she can be jailed for this offense.