Law Dictionary and Legal Citation Guides
The law is basically law made and enforced by governmental or communal institutions to regulate societal behavior, however with its exact definition having been a matter of longstanding disagreement. It’s been differentially defined as the craft and science of civil law. In America it is governed by the United States Congress, whilst in many other jurisdictions it is governed by judges and juries. As civil law courts deal mainly with disputes between private parties, the profession of criminal law is much more diffuse.
Civil law refers to the rules that govern conduct in private lives. The three main branches of the legal system are: jurisdiction, civil law and criminal law. Jurisdiction refers to the authority that a court exercises in a matter within its jurisdiction. For instance in the United States federal district court, all decisions are made according to the law of the United States.
Civil law jurisdictions are those where the law governs conduct in private lives. A major portion of the legal system in the United States isjurisdiction over trusts and wills, bankruptcy, real estate, trusts, and private criminal law. A good example is the United States v. Warren Court case. This was a famous case when in 1819 the Supreme Court reversed the decision of a lower court that had previously interpreted the law in a way that prevented Native Americans from keeping their traditional ways. While some of the cases discussed were later overturned due to new technologies and procedural rules, many stayed on the books and have been used ever since to govern private citizens.
Within the United States, all four branches of the legal system are based upon admiralty law, which means the law that applies to maritime matters. Admiralty law includes civil law, criminal law, and administrative law. The U.S. Code, which is the primary legal document used in the country, is divided into ninety-six books. Of these books, the Constitution is the largest, followed by the legislative documents of the legislature, executive branch, and each of the supreme court judges.
Each of the branches of the legal system are responsible for defining the laws that regulate them. All laws that are enacted are also referred to as criminal laws. Criminal laws can be divided into two categories: federal criminal laws and state criminal laws. Federal criminal laws include the Federal offenses that are punishable by sentences of more than one year in prison and the substantive laws that define crimes. Federal offenses include the maximum penalties allowed under the federal constitution (the Criminal Code), the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other related constitutional materials.
State criminal laws vary depending upon where the offense was committed and the state jurisdiction. Federal and state authorities share authority over enforcing the criminal law and, consequently, all laws of the United States are applied nationwide. This is a vast subject and is the focus of much of what is done by the various types of criminal defense lawyers.
Liebeck v. Ohio, is perhaps the most important U.S. case on the point of double jeopardy. In this case, Liebeck argued that after his arrest for second degree murder, he could not make an argument that he had not actually killed anyone, because after his arrest he had given police detectives the gun he had in his possession during the commission of the crime. The court did not accept his argument, stating that he had waived his right to a double jeopardy by failing to inform the police that he possessed a deadly weapon. The court thus held that under the circumstances presented, Liebeck waived his right to a trial by allowing the prosecution to use the weapon against him. There were many dissents to the ruling and most of them centered on the fact that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution requires the presence of a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of a defendant, so that even if the defendant has a reasonable doubt as to his guilt, it is not required that he go to trial.
A plethora of reference materials are available that serve as legal dictionaries and law books. Reference materials on the law are readily available through online law libraries as well as law schools and are generally categorized by subject. These law reference guides cover every topic under the sun, including civil law, criminal law, corporate law, family law, immigration, labor law, real estate law, tax law, and virtually every other area of the law that you can imagine. If you are looking up a legal term or phrase, you can simply use one of the many reference law books that are available to quickly find out what you are talking about.