What is Law? - McCook Public Schools

What is
Chapter 1
Street Law Text
• The rules and regulations made and enforced by
government that regulate the conduct of people
within a society
• The study of Law and/or Legal Philosophy
What is Law
• Laws are basically rules. You have had rules all your life
from home to school.
• Rules made and enforced by the government are called
• Laws affect almost every aspect of daily life.
• All societies have had laws and understood the
importance of them.
• Not all laws are fair or good but the goal is order and
the protection of all citizens.
• A democracy must be based on the “Rule of Law”.
Basically all citizens are required to obey laws
Problem 1.1
• List 10 of your daily activities. Next to each
item, list any laws that affect that activity.
What is the purpose of each law, would you
change any of the laws, why or why not, and
finally identify the laws as Federal, State, or
Law and Values
• Laws usually reflect
societies values and are
based on common law.
• Not everything that is
immoral is illegal… laws
can not regulate
everything nor can
they be held to a
certain religions beliefs
[separation of church
and state]
• Our legal system’s goals:
Protect basic human rights
Promote fairness
Help resolve conflict
Promote order and stability
Promote desirable social and
economic behavior
• Represent the will of the
• Protect the rights of the
Law and Values cont.
• Laws must balance
Rights with
– The will of the
majority with the
rights of the
– the goal is to
protect people
and resolve
– This does not
mean everything,
or life, is fair only
the attempt to
be equitable
• Laws are based on:
Moral Values
Economic Values
Political Values
Social Values
• Some values may interfere with other values
• Some believe we have to sacrifice some
liberty for security
• People disagree on what role the law can
play in solving all problems [example of
drugs] Experience shows there is a limit to
what laws can reasonably be expected to do
Problem 1.2 The Shipwrecked Sailors
Problem 1.2 “The Shipwrecked Sailors”
a. Should Dudley and Stephens be tried for murder? Explain.
b. As an attorney for Dudley and Stephens, what arguments
would you make on their behalf? As an attorney for the
government, what arguments would you make on the
government’s behalf?
c. If Dudley and Stephens are convicted, what should their
punishment be?
d. What purpose would be served by convicting Dudley and
e. What is the relationship between law and morality in this
case? Was it morally wrong for Dudley and Stephens to
kill Brooks? Explain.
f. Can an act be legal but immoral? Can an act be morally
right but unlawful? Explain
Problem 1.3
a. Identify a problem for which we need a law.
b. Identify an existing law that is not necessary.
Human Rights
• Rights all people have simply because they are
human beings
• The legal way of making provisions passed by the
United Nations, Treaties, or International Law less
enforceable than it might other wise be.
Balancing Rights with Responsibilities
• Too concerned with rights while neglecting
• You must be willing to participate in
government as well as receiving benefits
• Act responsibly…. Parents, drivers, taxes
• Just because you have a right doesn’t mean
you should act immorally
• The correct balance between rights and
responsibilities is a difficult journey
Problem 1.6 The Apathetic Bystanders
a. Why do you think the bystanders took no action to help Kitty?
b. Did the bystanders commit a crime by not acting? Give your
c. Did the bystanders do the “right” thing?
d. Should the law hold citizens responsible for not helping out in
cases such as this one?
Criminal Laws
• Regulate public conduct and set out duties owed
to society.
• More serious crime… with a possible penalty of
more than one year in jail
• Less severe crime…. with a possible penalty of up
to a year in jail.
Civil Laws
• Regulate relations between individuals or groups
of individuals
Civil Action
• A lawsuit brought by one person who feels
wronged or injured by another person
• The person accused of a crime in a criminal case,
or the person being sued in a civil case.
• The person harmed that files a lawsuit. The
person that sues.
• The person that represents the “state” in a criminal
trial that tries to prove the guilt of a person.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
• Standard of proof in a Criminal trial. It means the if the
jury has any reasonable doubts about the defendants
guilt they must vote to acquit.
Preponderance of the Evidence
• Standard of proof in a Civil trial. It means that all the
judge or jury has to do is decide if it is more likely than
not that the defendant wronged the plaintiff.
Criminal v. Civil Law
Criminal Law
Civil Law
What is the purpose of the case
Punish the perpetrator
Benefit the victim
Who is the plaintiff/prosecutor
The State
The Victim
Who is the defendant
The perpetrator [person who
committed the crime]
The perpetrator [person who
committed the wrong]
What is the victim’s role in the
Possibly a witness
A party and a witness
Who decides to bring a case
The district attorney or
The victim [the person wronged]
What standard is required to
Beyond a reasonable doubt
Preponderance of the evidence
What is the punishment if the
defendant loses
Any of following: jail time,
probation, community service,
fines, sex offender list, etc.
Judgment or settlement
requiring Defendant to pay the
What rights does the
perpetrator-defendant have?
Right to state-paid defense
Right to remain silent;
Right to not testify
None of these.
Problem 1.7
a. List all the things you think Matt and Kenji did
b. What laws are involved in this story?
c. Which of these are criminal laws? Which are
civil laws?
Limited Government
• Government is limited by the people or a
document. Our constitution is an example.
Separation of Powers
• The division of power between our three branches of
government. Make Laws/ Enforce Laws/ Interpret Laws
• Laws passed by the government. The legal term for a
laws by the Federal or State governments. Local laws
are called ordinances.
Checks and Balances
• Oversight of each branch over the other two
• Check from the President on Congress… stops a
law and sends it back to Congress
Judicial Review
• Supreme Court check on Congress… makes a law
• A law that is in violation of the constitution
• Division of power between a Central government
and Local governments
Problem 1.8
a. A state law requires that a prayer be said each
day in public schools. The courts rule that the
law violates a First Amendment clause that
prohibits the government from establishing a
b. The U.S. Congress passes a law requiring that
Supreme Court sessions be televised.
c. Because a prison is very old and overcrowded, a
state court orders the state legislature to spend
$100 million on a new prison.