STREET LAW - Capital High School

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UNIT 1: Introduction to Law and the Legal System
Chapter 1
What is Law?
Unit 1 provides a foundation and frame
of reference for the study of law
 In Chapter 1:

 Students learn the definition of law and the
kinds of laws that exist
 Students then examine how law is related to
values, human rights, and responsibilities
within the framework of the U.S. Constitution
Introduction

Learning Outcomes—After completing
this section, students should be able to:
 Define the term jurisprudence
 Explain several reasons for having laws
 Explain why the rule of law is important in a
democratic society
 List a number of laws that affect daily life in
our society
Jurisprudence, or the study of law and
legal philosophy, seeks to answer the
question “What is law?”
 This field of study analyzes, explains,
classifies, and criticizes bodies of law
 It also attempts to reveal the historical,
moral, and cultural basis of a particular
legal concept


For Street Law, law is defined as:
the rules made and enforced by
government that regulate the conduct of
people within a society
Introduction

Learning Outcomes—After completing
this section, students should be able to:
 Define the term jurisprudence
 Explain several reasons for having laws
 Explain why the rule of law is important in a
democratic society
 List a number of laws that affect daily life in
our society
Law is made by governments at the
federal, state, local, or tribal levels
 Rules are made by private parties, i.e.,
schools, parents

Laws are rules made by the government
that tell people in a society how they
should act
 While every society has some type of
law, it can take many different forms
depending on the given society
 Stable societies depend on government
officials to enforce the laws and the
citizens to obey them

Laws and Values

Learning Outcomes—After completing
this section, students should be able to:
 Give examples of how laws reflect
economic, moral, political, and social values
 List three essential aspects of a fully
effective law
 Analyze a case in order to explore the
relationship between law and morals
Laws generally reflect people's ideas about
right and wrong
 However, not everything that is immoral is
illegal
 Laws often change over time as a society's
values change
 One goal of the law in democratic societies is
to respect the majority's wants while
protecting the rights of those who have less
of a voice in the system

Caption Answer—p. 5

Economic values are often placed in
conflict by environmental protection laws
Caption Answer—p. 7

Allowing women in the military as pilots
and other traditionally male-only
positions reflects society’s changing
ideas about gender equality
Human Rights

Learning Outcomes—After completing
this section, students should be able to:
 Define the terms human rights, dignity,
binding, covenant, and taking a reservation
 Identify the rights included in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, the
International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, and the International Covenant on
Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
 Describe the extent to which the U.S.
government recognizes and enforces
international human rights agreements
 Identify and analyze examples of human
rights violations in the United States and
elsewhere in the world
Human rights are the rights that belong
to people simply because they are
human beings
 Most countries have agreed to
recognize and respect human rights by
signing the Universal Declaration of
Rights
 The United Nations has developed a
system of international treaties that
protects specific human rights

Many countries also create laws aimed
at protecting human rights
 Our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and
other state and federal laws are all
influenced by a desire to protect human
rights

Caption Answer—p. 9

Human rights can be used as standards
when writing laws. Even though they
may not refer to them as human rights,
many laws contain provisions for
protecting human rights
Balancing Rights with
Responsibilities

Learning Outcomes—After completing
this section, students should be able to:
 Evaluate the relationship between rights and
responsibilities
 Identify reasons critics object to the United
State’s emphasis on individual rights
 Distinguish between being right and having
a right

Americans enjoy many individual rights,
but some people argue that these rights
must be balanced with social
responsibilities to foster a sense of
community
Caption Answer—p. 12

Many laws—such as voting laws and
employment laws—have been extended
to include women, minorities, and the
disabled
Kinds of Laws

Learning Outcomes—After completing
this section, students should be able to:
 Distinguish between the two major groups of
laws: criminal and civil
 Define the terms criminal law, felony,
misdemeanor, civil law, civil action,
defendant, plaintiff, prosecutor, beyond a
reasonable doubt, and preponderance of the
evidence
 Explain the difference between criminal and
civil laws
 Describe the difference between
misdemeanors and felonies
 Recognize, from a story, the laws involved
and identify each law as either civil or
criminal

Law can be divided into two major categories:
civil and criminal
 Criminal laws regulate public conduct. In a criminal
case, the government brings legal action against a
person and imposes a penalty.
 Civil laws regulate relations between private
individuals and may be enforced in a civil action by a
private citizen (or group) who feels wronged.

Sometimes the same act or wrong can be tried
as both a civil and criminal case. However,
criminal cases require a higher standard of
evidence for conviction than civil cases,
because the penalties are more severe.
Caption Answer—p. 14

It is not likely that the public understood
the difference between the criminal law
and the civil law because many people
were confused about how O.J. Simpson
could be found not guilty of murder in
the criminal case and liable for wrongful
death in the civil case.
Problem 1.7—p. 15

Transparency T1-2—“An Introduction to
the Civil Justice and Criminal Justice
Systems”
a)
Possible answers:
 skipping school
 taking the car
 ignoring the handicapped parking sign
 leaving trash on the park bench
 possessing illegal drug
The following types of laws are involved in this story (b-c):
 Truancy—civil
 Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle—criminal
 Parking violation—criminal
 Licensing (street vendor)—criminal
 Warranty law (CD player)—civil
 Littering—criminal
 Tort of negligence—civil
 Breaking and entering—criminal





Trespassing—civil or criminal
Larceny—criminal
Conversion of property—civil
Search and seizure—criminal
Possession of illegal substances—criminal
Leaving the scene of an accident—criminal
Arrest--criminal
Our Constitutional Framework

Learning Outcomes—After completing
this section, students should be able to:
 Describe the function of the U.S.
Constitution in defining and limiting the
powers of government
 Define the terms limited government,
separation of powers, statute, checks and
balances, veto, judicial review,
unconstitutional, federalism, and Bill of
Rights
 Identify how powers of the executive,
legislative, and judicial branches are
separated by the Constitution
 Describe how checks and balances limit the
power of government
 Describe how judicial review can be used to
interpret the Constitution and protect
individual rights
 Explain how the principle of limited
government is reflected in the Bill of Rights
 Describe how and why constitutions may be
amended
Government & the Constitution

Why do you think the Framers of the
Constitution felt citizens needed
protection from government?
 They wanted to avoid creating the kind of
tyrannical government they had suffered
under when they were controlled by the
British government

How does the Constitution protect
American citizens from the government?
 The Bill of Rights contains a list of rights
people have that limit what the government
can do. For example:
○ The First Amendment begins with the phrase:
“Congress shall make no law respecting . . . “
establishing a religion or prohibiting free
exercise of religion, restricting the rights to
free speech, press, petition, assembly, etc.

Suppose there was just one branch of
government rather than three
 Would there be any advantages to such an
arrangement?
○ The government would be more efficient
 What kinds of problems would develop?
○ An unchecked branch might increase or
abuse its power, threatening individual rights
and the Constitution’s goals

Suppose there was no system of checks
and balances among the three branches
of government
 What kinds of problems would citizens face?
○ Citizens might find their rights against the
intrusion of government power limited

Should constitutions be easier to amend
than they are now?
 A constitution that is too easy to amend
threatens a government’s stability
 A constitution that is too difficult to amend
can become outdated
Caption Answer—p. 16
The Constitution sets forth the basic
framework of government
 It also lists the powers of the
government, as well as the limits of
these powers

Activity—Determining the
Constitutionality of Laws

Working in pairs, decide if the following
laws would be constitutional or
unconstitutional—use the Bill of Rights
as a reference [Handout]
The United States Constitution is the
highest law in the United States and the
longest lasting written constitution in the
world
 The United States Constitution

 sets forth guidelines for the organization of
the government,
 lists the government's powers and limits,
 and outlines the freedoms of United States
citizens
The Constitution also designates that
the federal government's power must be
divided among three branches, each
with distinct roles and checks on the
other branches' power.
 In addition to federal power being
shared among the three branches,
power is also divided between the
federal and state governments.

Each state has its own constitution,
which organizes its government and
sets out the rights of its people.
 These constitutions, like the federal
Constitution, are difficult to change, but
amendment processes exist and are
used when necessary.

Problem 1.8—p. 18
a)
The courts prevent the state from
passing a law that violates the
Constitution (checks and balances) and
have the authority to invalidate such a
law (judicial review)
b)
Congress regulates international affairs
on behalf of the country, and a state
regulates local issues limited within the
state’s borders (federalism)
c)
The state court prevents the legislature
from subjecting the prisoners to
unconstitutional deprivation of rights
(checks and balances)
However, the court does not have the
power to spend the money directly
(separation of powers)

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