What Is Law?

Law is the collection of rules created by a government to create order and ensure a peaceful society. This can be in the form of statutes or, as in the case of common law systems, a collection of judge-made precedent. Laws are generally binding, and when they are violated sanctions can be imposed. The department of knowledge concerned with these rules is called jurisprudence.

The question of what constitutes Law is a complex one. Glanville Williams said that the meaning of the term varies according to the context in which it is used. The word has a wide variety of different meanings, depending on whether it is being used in a judicial sense or as a scientific concept. Holmes, for example, defined Law as a “bet-predicting system.” It makes predictions about the probability that coercion will bring about conformity or avenge violation. This is a descriptive and forward looking approach to the law.

Other terms that are important in discussions of Law include:

evidence – Information presented during a trial or other legal proceeding that is intended to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) for one side or another. This includes direct and circumstantial evidence.

indictment – The formal charge that is issued by a grand jury indicating there is enough evidence to warrant having a trial, usually for a felony.

restraining order – A court order that prohibits someone from doing something that is likely to cause irreparable harm. It differs from an injunction in that it may be granted immediately, without notice to the opposing party and without a hearing. It is usually intended to last only until a hearing can be held.