Law is the set of rules that govern a society. It sets out what is and is not acceptable, with systems in place to ensure that victims receive compensation, and offenders are punished. Laws cover a wide range of topics from speed limits to contracts, and are broken down into numerous branches:
Laws serve many purposes, but some of the main ones are to keep peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice, and provide for orderly social change. Some legal systems serve these purposes better than others:
A nation’s law is largely determined by its government. Legislators may write laws, or they may copy legislation that has been found to be effective in other jurisdictions. There are also a number of organizations that produce model laws for legislatures to use:
Some of the most important laws deal with issues that affect the lives of citizens:
Contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods or services, and includes everything from buying a bus ticket to trading options on the derivatives market. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward their tangible property (such as land or buildings), intangible property (such as a car or bank accounts), and intellectual property (such as trademarks, patents, or copyrights).
Criminal law deals with the punishment of those who break the law. It is governed by the constitution, state laws, and judicial decisions. A criminal trial starts with arraignment, which is the process of formally introducing the accused person to the court and explaining the charges against him or her. The accused is then asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If he or she does not plead guilty, the trial proceeds to the jury, which decides whether the defendant is innocent or guilty.
Other important laws are those that protect the environment, such as environmental laws; and laws regulating aviation, such as air law. These laws are framed by national civil aviation acts, which in turn are aligned with the recommendations and standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO.
The law can be a complex and difficult subject, but it is vital to societies. Despite the difficulty of understanding and applying it, it provides stability, equality, and justice to all. For example, in a society that has fair laws and an impartial judiciary, individuals of all social classes face consequences for breaking the law, regardless of their wealth or status in life. This system of law provides the foundation for a free society.