A legal system is simply a process or procedure for enforcing and interpreting the law. There are thousands of legal systems around the world to consider. While each one varies slightly in practice, there are some common elements that all legal systems have in common. The most important element of any legal system, other than the courts, is the courts themselves.
In legal systems that do have separate governments with differing legal authority, each government implements and interprets its own Constitutions and Treaties. It is also the responsibility of the court to decide what those Constitutions and Treaties say and to apply them. While the courts are not involved in deciding what those components mean to the citizens of the constituent states, they are an essential part of the legal system.
Some legal systems have juries as an important part of their legal processes. A jury is a panel of persons selected by a judge from a pool of candidates chosen by the lawyers to hear the case. The jury is not a “teaching” body; however, juries are frequently asked to render verdicts after considering both the evidence and the testimony of witnesses. A great deal of a person’s life is spent on the jury bench. For example, persons may be tried for murder, manslaughter, rape, burglary, or many other crimes.
Criminal law is the branch of the general law that applies to persons charged with crimes. Criminal law is divided into three branches: state law, federal law, and human nature/ancestry law. State and federal laws are designed to protect the people from individuals who may be guilty of committing crimes against others. Each of these branches also has different constitutional constraints.
The Constitution of the United States and the Bills of Rights of the United States are examples of public law, which have developed separately from the common law system. In contrast, the common law system developed in England, the mother country of the common law system, and developed in direct response to the problems faced by society. A significant difference between civil law and criminal law arises from the privileges and immunities afforded protections to some civil rights than are afforded protection to individuals accused of crimes against other individuals.
In addition, whereas the common law tended to develop on the basis of case-by-case experience, the emergency powers of the legislature to provide citizens with a stronger protection against the threat of immediate danger. Most jurisdictions, including the U.S. states, have statutory laws that permit judges to issue warrants to law enforcement officials for the arrest and prosecution of suspects in specified circumstances. While warrantless arrest and seizures are generally allowed, there are legitimate reasons for having warrants issued under emergency powers. Some jurisdictions also have carve-out provisions for specific situations in which the issuance of warrants is based solely on suspicion or based on probable cause rather than individualized suspicion.