Why Do We Have Laws?

It would be great if everyone did the right thing all the time and nothing bad ever happened. However, that is unrealistic for a number of reasons. One of the biggest might be that people disagree over what is right and wrong. 

While every country has laws and regulations that it expects its citizens to follow, they differ from country to country. Some are major and some are minor. For example, in much of the United States, it is illegal to jaywalk. It is not illegal to jaywalk in the United Kingdom. In Singapore, chewing gum is illegal. It is not illegal in the United States. In the United States, laws also differ from state to state, and within cities and towns. Some laws are strange. For example, in North Carolina, it is illegal to rollerblade on a state highway or for drug dealers to fail to pay excise tax on any controlled substance they sell.   

The Rule of Law

The rule of law is the legal principle that provides equality and accountability for all individuals, organizations and governments. Under the rule of law, everyone is to be treated equally under the law and accountable for failing to follow the law. No one person, organization or government is more important than another, or above the law. 

The concept of the rule of law was particularly prevalent in the early formation of the United States. The colonists wanted equality and they wanted laws to govern, not kings and queens as was the norm in other countries. That is why the rule of law is the system that was established by the United States Constitution. This intent can be evidenced by the first three words “We the People.”

The Constitution is the supreme, or highest law, of the United States. From the Constitution comes both common law (this is law made by Courts interpreting the law) and statutory law (laws that are written by legislators and then adopted by either Congress at the federal level or state legislatures at the state level).  

The Purpose of Laws

Laws exist to protect both individual safety and community safety from harm by other individuals, organizations and governments. Laws provide a framework within which individuals, governments and organizations are expected to act. 

Laws provide expected guidelines for society, providing both acceptable and unacceptable ways for people and organizations to behave. Having laws insures some order in our society and an understanding that failure to operate within the law will, or could, result in penalties. 

While everyone should be treated equally in our society, the reality is that many are not. Certain populations are historically treated worse. Laws directed towards those populations are intended to protect the more vulnerable. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was enacted to protect individuals from hiring or firing, or being treated differently, based on their “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Types of Laws and Protections

In the United States there are federal laws, state laws and local laws. Sometimes those laws overlap, and sometimes they are stricter at the state level. Laws and regulations govern almost every aspect of our society. Some laws, like those granted by the U.S. Constitution, protect citizens rights and liberties. Examples include:

  • freedom of speech
  • freedom of religion
  • freedom of the press
  • freedom of assembly

Other laws, both civil and criminal, exist to protect both individual and public safety. These include:

  • traffic laws. For example, speed limits are intended to protect drivers and pedestrians from car accidents. Seat belt laws are intended to protect drivers and passengers in the event of a car accident. School bus laws are intended to protect children getting on and off a bus. 
  • professional licensing laws. A number of professions require that certain professionals be licensed in order to protect the public. The legal profession requires that lawyers be licensed. The medical profession requires that doctors and nurses must be licensed. Licensing doctors and nurses for example, is intended to protect the general public from being harmed by a doctor or nurse and limit medical malpractice suits
  • criminal laws. Those against theft, murder, and drunk driving, are intended to prevent individuals from being harmed physically.
  • contract laws. These are designed to regulate the sale of goods and services between people, groups and businesses, and ensure that people are following agreed upon contracts.
  • property laws. These are designed to protect the ownership, sale and exchange of land and personal property. 
  • food safety laws. These are intended to protect consumers from being harmed by food prepared and served at restaurants, and from being harmed by food purchased at stores. 

Remedies

Individuals, organizations or governments who believe that they have been wronged by violation of established laws can seek a remedy for those wrongs. The remedy is often articulated within the law and there is a right to bring a claim and seek damages. 

A person injured by a doctor during a medical procedure in North Carolina or California can review the personal injury laws of the state in which the medical malpractice occurred, and bring a medical malpractice claim against the doctor and possibly other entities such as the hospital in which the injury occurred. While there will be some differences among the laws in different states, the basic requirements of a medical malpractice case (proving that there was a breach of the duty of care) will be the same. 

A person injured in a car accident in Charlotte, North Carolina and a person injured in a car accident in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will both have personal injury claims. Again, there will be some difference within the laws of the state but because we are a country with established laws, there is recourse anywhere in the country if a wrong has been committed. 

Let Our Charlotte Attorneys Review Your Case

The Charlotte, North Carolina based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC  are experienced attorneys. They know how to examine the facts of a case and apply the law and can advise you as to whether or not you should proceed with a claim.  Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation.

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