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Unit 1: What is Law?

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  1. Unit 1: What is Law? Mr. Concannon Smith

  2. Do Now • List 10 of your daily activities (for example, waking up, eating, etc.). • Next to each item, list any laws that affect that activity. • What is the Purpose of each law you identified? • Would you change any of these laws? Why/why not?

  3. Unit 1: What is Law? Mr. Concannon Smith

  4. What is Law? • Law: the rules and regulations made and enforced by a society’s government to manage the conduct of the people within said society. • Every society that has ever existed has recognized the need for laws (written or unwritten) • This does NOT mean all laws are “fair” or “good” • A democratic system of govt. (like ours) cannot function unless the laws are respected by the people they are intended to regulate. • Society must be based on the “rule of law” • Rules should be known in advance and created democratically • Nobody is above the law (example: Nixon)

  5. Laws and Values • Laws generally reflect and promote societal values (traditional ideas about right and wrong) • Not everything immoral is illegal (ex. lying to a friend) • Goals of the legal system according to legal scholars: • Protecting basic human rights • Promoting fairness • Resolving conflicts • Promoting order/stability • Promoting desirable economic and social behavior • Representing the will of the majority • Protecting the rights of minorities (non-racial usage)

  6. Value-laden Law Examples • Moral Values: Right and Wrong • Murder = primary moral value of protection of human life • Economic Values: accumulation, use of, and dist. of wealth • Tax laws = encourage people to own a home (tax benefits) • Shoplifting laws = protect property and discourages stealing • Political Values: relationship between people an government • Voting holidays = easier for citizens to participate in elections • Anti-corruption laws = keep public trust in elected officials • Social Values: broadest category, issues important to society • Public education = country’s best interest to educate youth

  7. Social Contract Theory • In a nutshell: • The voluntary agreement to limit our own rights and freedoms to a government in order to maintain social and political order • The degree to which we submit to this agreement is constantly under debate • Social contract on the day to day: • Ranges from stop signs and speed limits to the Patriot Act • Can you think of any others?

  8. Do Now • What do you think it means to have a right? (what is the meaning of a “right”) • Are you born with any basic rights, and if so what are they? • Where did they come from? • Are there some rights that are more important than others?

  9. Mr. Concannon Smith

  10. Human Rights • Human Rights: the rights all people have simply because they are human. • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a statement of basic human rights and acts as a set of standards by which nearly every country in the world follows. • Developed by the UN under Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948 • Basic UDHR rights: Liberty, Education, political and religious freedom, and economic well-being • UDHR also bans torture • The UDHR is not a binding treaty but many ideals in the UDHR have been ratified in treaties

  11. Rights vs. Responsibility • Human Rights can be used by countries when writing laws • Rights are codified by signing HR treaties, amending the Constitution, or passing laws specifically aimed at a HR issue • Some criticize the “over-codification” of rights in the U.S. • If we consider trial by jury a right, we shouldn’t complain about serving on a jury • If we want a government for the people & by the people, we should actually get out and vote • Further criticism…just because we have first amendment rights doesn’t mean saying hateful things is morally correct • Striking the correct balance between right & responsibility is difficult!

  12. Kinds of Laws Mr. Concannon Smith

  13. Two Major Categories Criminal Law Civil Law Regulates relations between individuals or groups of individuals Examples: marriage, divorce, contracts, insurance, car accidents A civil action is a lawsuit brought by a person who feels wronged or injured by another person Penalty: recovery of damages • Regulates public conduct and sets out duties owed to society • Can only be brought by the govt. against a person charged with committing a crime • Offenses divided into felonies and misdemeanors • Penalties: incarceration, probation, fines

  14. Important Distinctions • A criminal case is brought by the government against a defendant • A civil case is brought by a plaintiff against the defendant. • In a CRIMINAL CASE, the burden on the prosecution is to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt • In a CIVIL CASE, the plaintiff wins by convincing the judge or jury by a preponderance of the evidence • These are called standards of proof • Why do you think the standard of proof is lower in CIVIL CASES?

  15. Our Constitutional Framework Mr. Concannon Smith

  16. Must Know Basics • The U.S. Constitution is the highest law of the land. • Sets the framework, powers and limitations of government • Limited Government is the fundamental notion in the Const. • Logically so, given the history • The Separation of Powers is perhaps the most important component of the Constitution • Three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial • Checks and Balances: designed to ensure that one branch cannot rule supreme over the others

  17. Judicial Review • The Court’s power to declare unenforceable any law passed by Congress or a state that conflicts with the Constitution • In general SCOTUS can declare a law unconstitutional • govt. has passed a law that the Constitution does not give it power to pass • govt. passed a law that violates somebody’s rights • SCOTUS can also declare an Executive Act unconstitutional • Can strike down regulations issued by executive branch Is there any potential weakness in this power?

  18. Federalism • defined: the division of power between the federal government and the states • (remember: the federal govt’s power to make law is written explicitly in the Constitution, the remaining powers are left to the states) • Since states have their own power to make laws, many states have different laws regulating the same behaviors/crimes/etc.

  19. The Bill of Rights • The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution • They define and guarantee the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans. • These include but are not limited to: • Freedom of religion • Freedom of speech and press • Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure

  20. Lawmaking US citizens obey three main sources of law (federal, state, and local). Legislative bodies in each category make the laws. In some situations laws can be made directly by voters, and in other courts can set law by ruling on appeals.

  21. Do Now • Decide whether each of the following is a federal, state, and/or a local law: • No parking on the east side of Main St. between 4 and 6 pm. • All persons between the ages of 6 and 16 must attend school • Whoever enters a bank for the purposes of taking by force or violence the money from said bank shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. • In order to sell any product on the public streets a vendor must first apply for and receive a vendor’s permit • No employer of more than 15 persons may discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin • All persons traveling on interstate airlines are subject to search before entering the plane prior to departure

  22. Legislatures • Federal level: Congress divided into two houses (HOR and Senate) • Laws passed at this level are binding in every state (called statutes) • Deal with issues of national impact: environment, public health, national defense, labor relations, civil rights, federal taxes • State level: state legislatures (most of which are bicameral also) operate the same way and make laws that are only binding within their boundaries. • State statues deal with statewide issues: education, transportation, state taxes, marriage, most criminal laws, the power of state officials • City/Town level: pass laws known as ordinances • Local issues: land use, parking, schools, etc.

  23. Drafting a Bill Mr. Concannon Smith

  24. Drafting a Bill • Many drafts are written before bills are formally introduced and discussed by a legislative body • Despite such efforts, interpretation can become an issue • This violates a basic principle of law (people knowing the law) • Thus CLARITY is key when drafting bills: the checklist • Is the law written in clear language? • Is the law understandable? • When does the law go into effect? • Does the law contradict any other laws? • Is the law enforceable, and if so by whom? • Are the penalties for breaking the law clear and reasonable?

  25. Your Lawmakers Mr. Concannon Smith

  26. Do Now • Federal Level: • Can you name who represents Massachusetts in the House of Representatives for your district? • How about our two Senators? • State Level: • State Representative • State Senator

  27. Truancy Law 7/1/2014 • Chapter 76, section 1 of the Massachusetts General Laws states that all children between the ages of six and sixteen must attend school. A school district may excuse up to seven day sessions or fourteen half day sessions in any period of six months. In addition to this law, each school may have its own attendance policy with which parents/guardians should be familiar. Inducing Absences • It is a crime to induce or attempt to induce a minor to miss school, or unlawfully to employ or to harbor a minor who should be in school.

  28. CJ in your District Harriet Chandler (D) Kimberly Ferguson (R) Bill concerning the insanity defense for criminals • Bill concerning teaching health in schools

  29. Analyzing Bills Chandler: Teaching Health Ferguson: Criminally Insane When was the bill introduced? What change is it trying to make? Provide evidence from the bill Why do you think the House is concerned about the permanent criminal record of those who pleaded insane? Do you agree with this bill? Explain why/why not… • When was the bill introduced? • What change is it trying to make? • Provide evidence from the bill • Why do you think the Senate is concerned about what goes on in a high school health class? • Do you agree with this bill? Explain why/why not…

  30. Advocacy in Law Lobbying Webquest Mr. Concannon Smith

  31. Advocacy • Defined: the active support of a cause. • Advocates try to persuade others to support the same cause • Advocacy (done well) is based on: • Gathering of facts • Developing outreach and communication • An effective plan and timeline • Determining the level of government responsible for the targeted legal changes you hope to make

  32. Lobbying • Defined: a way to influence the lawmaking process by convincing the lawmakers to vote as you want them to vote. • 17th century roots: interested persons had to wait outside political meetings until the politicians came out (in the lobby) • Lobbying today carries a negative connotation, but is actually a protected Constitutional right. • Free speech, freedom of assembly and press • A lobbyist, is someone who works for an interest group to sway legislation by convincing lawmakers to vote in their interest • You can lobby as an individual or as a group: write letters, protest, start a petition, phone-call campaigns, email, etc.

  33. What is Crime? Mr. Concannon Smith

  34. What is Crime? • An act becomes a crime when it meets the legal definitions that designate it as such • Simply stated: it is an wrongful act against society––proclaimed by law––and is punishable by society.

  35. The Consensus Model • Rests on the assumption that members of society form a basic agreement with regard to norms and social values • Those members whose actions deviate from the norm pose a threat to the well being of society as a whole  punished. • Laws are passed to control & prevent deviant behavior • Underlying assumption: a diverse group of people can have similar morals (sharing ideas about what’s right/wrong) • as public attitudes toward morality change so too do laws!

  36. The Conflict Model • Rejects the consensus model on grounds that in the US, moral attitudes are not constant or consistent • Different groups of citizens hold widely varying opinions on issues of morality and criminality: abortion, war on drugs, gun control, voter ID, immigration, same sex marriage etc. • The Conflict Model holds that the most politically powerful segments of society (based on class, income, age, & race) have the most influence on criminal law • Consequence: this group imposes their values on the rest of the community • This changes with whatever group comes to power

  37. Criminal v. Deviant • Deviance is simply behavior that does not conform to the norms of society (very subjective) • Deviant acts become crimes only when society as a whole (through its legislatures) determine that such acts should be punished.

  38. Types of Crime:Six Major Categories Mr. Concannon Smith

  39. 1. Violent Crimes • These crimes dominate public perspectives on crime (considered the most heinous offenses) • Examples include: • Murder: unlawful killing of a human being • Sexual Assault/Rape: coerced actions––sexual in nature––against an unwilling participant • Assault and Battery: two separate acts • Assault: threats on another person of physical harm (perceived truth) • Battery: physical attack on another individual • Robbery: taking of funds/personal property by means of force • These crimes are classified by degree  more on this later…

  40. 2. Property Crime • Most common form of crime • Larceny (theft): pocket picking, shoplifting, or stealing property not accomplished by force • Burglary: act of unlawfully entering a home or structure with the intent of committing a crime like theft (usually a felony) • Arson: malicious and intentional burning of a home, automobile or other structure

  41. 3. Public Order Crime • Behavior labeled criminal because it is contrary to shared social values (think Consensus Model) • Sometimes called Victimless Crimes (however misleading): • Examples include: • Public drunkenness, gambling, illicit drug use, prostitution, disturbing the peace, loitering, etc.

  42. 4. White-Collar Crime • Business related crime: an illegal act––carried out non-violently––against individuals or other businesses to obtain a personal or business advantage. • Examples include: • Embezzlement: using position in company to steal funds from the company • Tax Evasion: underreporting or not reporting taxable income • Fraud: Credit Card, Check, Securities (stock market), consumer fraud (counterfeits), insurance

  43. 5. Organized Crime • Illegal acts by illegal organizations usually geared toward satisfying the public’s demand for unlawful goods/services • Conspiratorial in nature. • Criminal tactics include (but certainly not limited to) violence, corruption, intimidation, fraud, trafficking (both narcotics and humans) • All for economic gain and power

  44. 6. High-Tech Crime • Newest variation on crime • Examples of Cybercrime: • Selling illegal porn • Soliciting minors • Defrauding consumers • Embezzlement • Cyber security attacks

  45. The Criminal Justice Process Mr. Concannon Smith