I. 2 Main Forms of Law
A. Civil Law--governs relationship
between individuals or corporations in a
1. malpractice suits, ownership
disputes, breach of contract, etc.
2. The plaintiff usually seeks
B. Criminal Law
1. Felony—serious criminal offense, may be
punishable with prison for a year or more or
a. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree
b. Degrees of Murder
i. 1st--premeditated (some degree of
planning), and deliberated (done on
ii. 2nd--only malice aforethought (intent
to inflict serious bodily harm, or to act with
wanton disregard for consequences
iii. Voluntary Manslaughter--
homicide without malice (maybe
during a sudden quarrel)
iv. Involuntary Manslaughter--
Killings that result from negligence--
didn't mean to, but should have known
better. (Mainly motor vehicle deaths.)
2. Misdemeanor--any crime that is not a felony.
a. Gross misdemeanor--punishable
by incarceration, usually in a local
jail, for 30 days to 1 year.
b. Petty misdemeanor—minor offense,
less than 30 days in jail
c. Violation--ticketable offense, doesn't
go on criminal record.
II. Sources of Criminal Law
A. Constitutional law
1. Supreme law of the land
B. Statutory law
1. Enacted by legislative bodies
2. Can be overturned by (A)
C. Administrative Law
1. rules and regulations from government agencies.
a. price-fixing, health code violations, EPA violations…
D. Case Law
1. law made by court decisions based on their
interpretations of the other laws
III. Final Note:
Laws are subject to interpretation and may be
modified as social norms change.
a. You probably noticed in Helter Skelter
that homosexual acts were considered
criminal. The US Supreme Court struck
down remaining “anti-sodomy” laws in
2003. Such laws had already been
repealed in 37 states.