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Ch. 15 Law in America.

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Presentation on theme: "Ch. 15 Law in America."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ch. 15 Law in America

2 Sources of American Law
Early systems of Law The earliest known written laws or rules were based on practices in tribal societies. Code of Hammurabi –a collection of laws assembled by Hammurabi, king of Babylonia from 1792 to 1750 B.C. This code was made up of 282 legal cases that spelled out relationships among individuals as well as punishments in areas that we would now call property law, family law, civil law, and criminal law. The laws that govern our lives and protect our rights are commonly known as constitutional law, statutory law, administrative law, common law, and equity.

3 The Constitution establishes our country as a representative democracy, outlines the structures of our government, and sets forth our basic rights. It applies to all Americans and is the supreme law of the land. The term constitutional law applies to that branch of the law dealing with the formation, construction, and interpretation of constitutions. It decides the limits of the government’s power and the rights of the individual.

4 Statutory Law Administrative Law
A statute is a law written by a legislative branch of government. Statues may limit citizens’ behavior when for instance, they set speed limits, specify rules for inspecting food products, or set the minimum age to obtain a work permit. Statutes are also the source of many rights like: the right to get a driver’s license, check your credit record, or return merchandise that you bought but do not like. Administrative Law Administrative law cases deal with problems of fairness and due process because most administrative agencies either regulate people’s behavior or provide or deny government benefits such as welfare payments or medical insurance.

5 Common Law The single most important basis of the American legal system is the common law. This is law made by judges in the process of resolving individual cases. Because it derives from the decisions of judges in settling cases, common law is also called case law. Equity Equity is a system of rules by which disputes are resolved on the grounds of fairness. An equity court could require an action beyond the payment of money or even stop a wrong before it occurred. For example, an equity court could issue an injunction to prevent and action such as a neighborhood building a fence across your property. In the nineteenth century America equity & common law merged. Today a single court can administer both systems.

6 Equal Justice Under the Law
It means every person, regardless of wealth, social status, ethnic group, gender, or age, is entitled to the full protection of the law. Due Process of Law-The government must follow proper constitutional procedures in trials and in other actions it takes against individuals.

7 The Adversary System The courtroom is a kind of arena in which lawyers for the opposing sides try to present their strongest cases. The lawyer for each side is generally expected to do all that is legally permissible to advance the cause of his client. The judge in the court room has an impartial role and should be as fair to both sides as possible, especially in implementing the essence of the law. Some say this encourages lawyers to ignore evidence not favorable to their sides and to be more concerned about victory than justice.                             

8 Presumption of Innocence- In the United States system a person although accused, is innocent until proven guilty. It is not mentioned in the constitution. The burden of proving an accusation against a defendant falls on the prosecution. The defendant does not have to prove his or her innocence. Unless the prosecution succeeds in proving the accusation, the court must declare the defendant not guilty.

9 Civil Law Civil laws concerns disputes among two or more individuals or between individuals and the government. Civil cases arise because one party believes it has suffered an injury at the hands of another party or wants to prevent a harmful action from taking place. About 90% of the cases heard in state courts concern civil laws. Four of the most important branches, or types, of civil law deal with contracts, property, family relations, and civil wrongs causing physical injury or injury to property, called torts.

10 Contracts… Contracts- A contract is a set of voluntary promises, enforceable by law, between parties who agree to do or not do something. Ex.- join a health club, buy a car with credit, get married… Expressed contract-the terms are specifically stated by the parties, usually in writing.

11 Contracts… Implied contract is one in which the terms are are not expressly stated but can be inferred from the actions of the people involved and the circumstances. The contract’s elements must include an 1)offer (a promise that something will or will not happen) 2) acceptance (one party to a contract must then accept the offer made by the other party. 3) consideration (They must give, exchange, perform, or promise each other something of value.

12 Property Law Real property- land and whatever is attached to or growing on it such as trees and houses. Personal property includes movable things like clothes or jewelry as well as intangible items like stocks, bonds, copyrights, or patents.

13 Family Law Another branch of civil law deals with the relationships among family members. Today marriage is a civil contract entered into by both parties. Divorce legally ends a marriage and leaves both parties free to remarry. Legal disputes involving such domestic relations account for a large number of civil cases in state courts.

14 Torts or Civil Wrongs A tort is any wrongful act, other than a breach of contract, for which the injured party has the right to sue for damages in a civil court. Those responsible for damage caused to someone’s property, such as breaking a window, or for injury to someone caused by negligence. These cases increased after the industrial revolution. There are two major categories of torts-intentional tort involves a deliberate act that results in harm to a person or property-ex. Hitting someone or spreading lies about them. Assault and battery and defamation of character are examples. Negligence is involves careless or reckless behavior- leaving a sharp knife where a small children could easily reach it for example.

15 Court dates set in case involving infant's death
Surrounded by family and fellow church members, DeWayne and Maleta Schmidt made their first court appearance Monday in a case involving the death of their infant daughter. They will not make another court appearance for more than six months. The Schmidts each face a charge of criminal recklessness for not seeking medical attention for their daughter last summer because of their religious beliefs. They instead asked church elders in Morgantown to come to their home outside Franklin and pray for their daughter in the hours after her birth. Their daughter, Rhiana Rose Schmidt, died less than two days after birth because of puerperal sepsis, a general infection typically treated with antibiotics. A grand jury decided in early July that the couple should face criminal charges, more than 10 months after the Johnson County Sheriff's Office forwarded its investigation to the county prosecutor for review. While not uncommon across the state and country, the underlying legal question raised by this case has not been argued in Johnson County before, Welliver said. Under Indiana law, depriving a child of medical care is felony neglect, except when care was deprived because of the parents' religious beliefs, Welliver said. In similar cases nationwide and in Indiana during the 1980s, parents have been charged or convicted of child neglect, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide, he said.

16 Steps in a civil case Civil cases are called lawsuits. The plaintiff is the person who brings charges in a lawsuit, called the complaint. The person against whom the suit is being brought is the defendant. The p. usually seeks damages, an award money from the defendant. Next step Hiring a lawyer… Filing a complaint-legal document filed with the court that has jurisdiction over the problem. It tells the defendant what is at issue. The defendant receives a summons, an official notice of the lawsuit that includes the date, the time, and place of the initial court appearance. The defense attorney must file a motion to dismiss, asking the court to end the suit. If the court denies the motion, the defendant must then file an answer, or formal response to the charges of the complaint, within a certain time, usually 10 to 60 days. Failure to do so results in a victory for the plaintiff.

17 Pretrial Discovery-occurs when both sides prepare for trial by checking facts and gathering evidence to support their case. They may interview witnesses, examine records and photos etc. 90% of all civil lawsuits are settled before trial through one of several techniques: Settlement, mediation-(settling outside of court) or trial but this may take years…

18 The Award When the plaintiff wins, the court awards damages, injunctive relief(preventing a future act), or both. Small claims court-Most states today have provided an alternative to lengthy trial process by creating small claims court-Usually with claims up to $1,000-$5,000.

19 Criminal Law The government charges someone with a crime and is always the prosecution. The defendant is the person accused of a crime. A crime is an act that breaks a criminal law and causes injury or harm to people or society in general.

20 Types of Crime Petty Offenses-Minor crimes such as parking illegally, littering, disturbing the peace, minor trespassing, and driving beyond the speed limit etc. Usually resulting in a ticket or citation.

21 Misdemeanors Misdemeanors-More serious crimes like vandalism, simple assault, stealing inexpensive items, writing bad checks and being drunk and disorderly. A person found guilty may be fined or sentenced to jail, usually for one year or less.

22 Felonies Felonies-Serious crimes such as burglary, kidnapping, arson, rape, fraud, forgery, manslaughter, or murder. These crimes are punishable by imprisonment for a year or more. In the case of murder the punishment could be death. People convicted of felonies loose certain rights such as the right to vote, possess a firearm, or serve on a jury.

23 Steps in a Criminal Cases
Investigation and Arrest Police believe a crime has been committed and start an investigation to gather enough evidence to convince a judge to give them a warrant to arrest someone. Initial Appearance-Whenever someone is arrested, he or she must be brought before a judge as quickly as possible, usually within 24 hrs., to be formally charged with a crime. The judge explains the charges to the defendant and reads the person’s rights.

24 If the charge is a misdemeanor, the defendant may plead guilty and the judge will decide on a penalty. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a date is set for trial. When the crime is a felony, the defendant usually is not asked to enter a plea. Rather the judge sets a date for a preliminary hearing. Preliminary Hearing or Grand Jury- In federal courts and in many state courts, cases will go to a grand jury to determine if there is enough evidence to “hand up” an indictment- or formal charge.

25 Plea Bargaining- 90% of all criminal cases, the process comes to an end with a guilty plea because of this process. The prosecutor, defense lawyer, and police work out an agreement through which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser crime in return for the government not prosecuting a more serious crime. This helps to reduce the tremendous volume of criminal cases.

26 Arraignment and Pleas At the Arraignment the judge reads the formal charge against the defendant in an open courtroom. During this process the judge may ask the defendant questions to ensure the person understands the charges. The defendant then enters one of four pleas 1) not guilty 2) not guilty by reason of insanity 3) guilty or in some states 4)no contest (I will not contest the decision- but it doesn’t go on record as a guilty plea.

27 Last steps… The Trial The Decision-Nearly all criminal cases require a unanimous vote for a verdict, or decision, of guilty. If the jury cannot agree on a verdict, a situation known as a hung jury, the court usually declares a mistrial. A new trial with another jury may be scheduled later. Sentencing Sentencing-When the verdict is not guilty the defendant is released immediately and cannot be tried again for the crime (usually) If the verdict is guilty the judge usually determines the sentence-the punishment to be imposed.


29 Examples of of County Courtrooms and District Courtrooms
County Courts 199th/401st District Courts

30 Setting the Scene                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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