What is legal?
Translation Dubai April 23, 2022

What is legal?

Legal has always been an important part of society. In the modern world, laws are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as the product of reason and deliberation; as the science of social order; and as the art of justice itself, among other things. In most societies today, it tends to be complex and difficult to understand, because many laws govern human interactions, especially in commerce and taxation in addition to criminal law.

How do we define legal?

Legal, by any practical definition, can be divided into three categories: private, public and criminal. Private Law is civil and does not include contracts that are governed by criminal law. Public Law includes statutes (or administrative laws) passed by governments as well as constitutional principles, such as freedom of speech or religion. Criminal Law refers to various legal obligations that apply to individuals but only when certain conditions have been met – usually involving intent or violation of a statute – such as murder or theft. This can include victimless crimes where there may be no specific victim like illegal gambling or consumption of alcohol. Laws do not always come in written form and other forms of laws exist including regulation, precedent, contract and standards set out through custom.

Understanding Legal Structure

In Western legal tradition, there are three basic types of legal structure. First, there’s civil law, which deals with disputes between private parties and has its basis in Roman law. Second, there’s common law, which developed in England and provides for resolution of disputes through a more flexible system that relies on precedents set by previous court cases. Third, there’s constitutional or statutory law, which refers to laws enacted by legislatures and enforced via judicial means. Understanding how these different types of legal systems interact with one another can be confusing; some say it can also provide an opportunity for creative solutions.

The creation of legal codes

The earliest legal codes date back to ancient Sumer and Babylon in 1750 BC. Early examples include codex Hammurabi, Codex Hermogenianus, Codex Theodosius, and Codex Gregorianus. These early legal codes mixed civil and religious laws. Many important features of these codes are still part of modern legal systems, such as sections on property rights, liability and compensation for injury.

How legal cases are heard

Legal cases are heard in courts and tribunals, with appeals made to higher courts, often through a hierarchy of lower courts. In some legal systems (such as Scotland), trials can be held without a jury, but in other systems (such as England’s) it is not uncommon for criminal cases to have twelve jurors. Civil cases sometimes only have one or three judges. Many countries provide legal aid to those who cannot afford legal fees. In many common law jurisdictions there are trial by jury; in others there are trials before judge alone; and in still others (e.g., Hong Kong) most trials occur before a panel of judges rather than juries.

The role of precedent in case decisions

Though it’s often overlooked, precedent—the authority of earlier decisions to influence future ones—is an extremely important factor in case decisions. Precedent, or stare decisis, as it’s called in Latin, gives legal systems a sense of continuity by maintaining stability and familiarity across legal precedents. It also limits judicial power; judges are bound by earlier rulings that they must apply or adapt when considering similar cases. This can act as a check on arbitrary decision-making that allows citizens to plan their lives with reasonable certainty and provides transparency to potential litigants. For example, people know what property rights mean and how best to protect them based on historical interpretations of these concepts.

When courts can interpret legislation

It’s important to know who interprets a given piece of legislation so that you can be aware of your rights and obligations as both an individual and as a member of society. In some instances, like Constitutional interpretation, all parts of government are involved in making decisions about how legal text should be interpreted; however, many other laws that affect citizens’ day-to-day lives are interpreted primarily by one level or branch of government—or even by one branch in isolation. For example, only elected officials interpret tax laws and zoning ordinances; judicial judges interpret criminal statutes.

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