Classifications of Law, Part 1

In this introduction to Law, I will explain the differences between major categories of Law so that you can understand how it affects you on a daily basis. Enjoy!

Public vs. Private Law

Public Law is any law enacted or passed by someone in a Public or Government position. Examples of such laws include State and Federal law, as well as things such as State and Federal securities laws, partnership and incorporation procedures, as well as zoning and development classification rules.

Private Law, on the other hand, is created and conducted by two or more individuals to govern their interactions. An example here includes contract law such as that agreed to between property tenants and their landlords. Another example would be that of Homeowners Associations in which the standards for living in a specific area are governed. While the procedures for forming contract law may be governed by Public Law, the actual measure of performance in these cases are considered Private Law and therefore subject to the agreed upon contract that governs the interaction between the two parties… as long as those agreements do not impinge on any civil liberties.

Criminal vs. Civil Law

One of the most common misperceptions and confusions in our society is that between Criminal Law and Civil Law. An example here is when OJ Simpson was acquitted of any criminal wrong-doings but was later found guilty of Civil laws. A Criminal violation is considered one in which an individual or group does wrong against society as a whole, while Civil Law looks to that which was perpetrated against another person or group specifically. So what is the difference when it comes to punishment? When someone violates a criminal law, for example, running a red light, they are expected to be punished in a socially agreed upon way. On the other side, if someone breaks a civil law, the typical punishment is usually restitution. So, what if you run a red light and hurt someone? In this case, both criminal and civil laws have been broken so two punishments will more than likely be assessed.

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