Unless you work in the legal field or have first-hand experience with a legal situation, you probably don’t have a good understanding of legal terms. You’re probably thinking there’s no reason to understand this type of information, if you’re not involved in a criminal or civil case. However, there are some terms that are so common, they’re used by regular people. News articles, broadcasts, and conversation at the local coffee shop probably include these terms from time to time. Here are 5 common legal terms and their meanings.
A felony is described as a serious crime. Felonies are punishable by at least one year in prison. The most severe felonies can be punishable by death or life in prison in a federal institution. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, arson, and perjury. For theft cases, the distinction between a felony and misdemeanor charges is usually value based. It’s important to realize some felonies are more serious than others. However, any felony is more serious than a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony. A single misdemeanor charge should result in less than one year in jail. Examples of misdemeanor crimes include disorderly conduct, vandalism, petty theft, possession of marijuana, and simple assault.
3: Civil Law
Not all legal cases are criminal. Civil law is the generic term applied to non-criminal law. In general, civil law handles cases that involve behavior that leads to individual or corporate parties. Examples of civil law cases include property damage, defamation, negligence resulting in death or injury, and breach of contract.
4: Constitutional Law
Constitutional law is the term given to laws prescribed by federal and state constitutions. Constitutional law consists of supreme court rulings. The rulings are created by Supreme Court Justices interpreting state and federal constitutions and determining whether a violation has incurred.
A statute is another term used to describe laws. A statute is a written law passed by Congress or other governing bodies. The word statute is often interchangeable with other terms including order, bill, edict, ruling, law, or regulation.
By taking the initiative to learn the most common legal terms, a reader can better understand the world around them. Whether watching the local news, reading the Sunday paper, or dealing with personal issues in your own life understanding legal terms will leave you better educated and prepared should you need this information.