What is Law?


Law is a system of rules and principles established by government and that citizens must obey. A common example is the law against stealing. Breaking the law may result in fines or imprisonment. The word law can also refer to a collection of laws or to the practice of law. Some people study the law to become lawyers or judges.

Law can be divided into criminal and civil. A country’s law may reflect the nation’s cultural and religious traditions. For instance, Hindu and Islamic law were supplanted by English common law in India and many other parts of the world when it became part of the British Empire in the 1800s. In contrast, Eastern Asia’s legal tradition combines secular and religious influences. The law may be codified in civil code books, as is the case with most French and German-influenced jurisdictions.

Law may be written and enforced by courts, prosecutors and police. It may be based on statutes, constitutional provisions or judicial decisions. Courts are bound by precedent and the decisions of appellate courts with authority to review their cases. A judge’s decision may be based on a statutory interpretation of the law or by the weighing of competing interests, such as the interests of a defendant and the public interest in having a fair trial. Law may also include regulations regulating activities of private companies, such as banking or utilities (water and energy). The rules in a regulation are intended to protect the public from bad business practices.