Ste. Statute (law)
Facts include the following types of issues:
Did the D drive through a red light?
Was he under the influence of alcohol at the time?
Did the D intend to harm the victim?
What did the parties mean in their CONTRACT?
Law includes the following types of issues:
What does driving under the influence signify legally?
If the D intended to harm the P, does that mean he is guilty?
Did the police use illegal procedures?
Once a verdict or decision is reached at the trial court, the parties may, in some cases, appeal to an appellate court.
Appellate jurisdiction involves the court’s power to review questions of law as they occurred at the trial court. If there were errors more than de minimis (insignificant), the verdict may be reversed, a new trial ordered, et cetera.
Then, there’s venue.
Once jurisdiction is established a trial may be moved within that jurisdiction for the convenience of the parties or in order to assure a fair trial. This involves the principle of venue, which means the place of the trial.
A change of venue means that a trial is moved for one of the above reasons.
And finally, remember that many disputes aren’t handled initially in any court! They are heard by administrative agencies, which derive their jurisdiction from specific statutes. Officials called hearing examiners, hearing officers, or administrative law judges…hear them. For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hears cases dealing with nuclear power plants, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hears cases dealing with television and radio stations, licenses for them, et cetera. Social Security benefit cases are heard by the Social Security Administration (SSA). And so it goes! Remember: Always be in the right place!
Standard of proof
In order to prevail (win) in court, a party has to prove its case. PROOF IS THE NAME OF THE GAME – THE ONLY GAME IN COURT.
The party that brings the case to court usually has the burden of proof at first. In criminal cases this burden is always on the government. The defendant (D) is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. It�s the government’s burden to prove him guilty. The D has to neither prove nor disprove anything.
In civil suits the plaintiff (P) has generally the first burden to present a prima facie case, which includes enough evidence that could prevail if not rebutted by the D.
What does a side need to prove its case to win? As you may have guessed by now – it depends on the case!
Beyond ALL doubt is not required in any trial.
Beyond a reasonable doubt is the degree to which the prosecution/government must prove its case to get a guilty verdict in a criminal case. The jury or judge (the trier of facts) must be fully satisfied with the evidence. In a jury trial there must be a unanimous verdict; all jurors must vote to convict.
Motion to dismiss may be granted by a judge when he rules (decides) that the P or prosecution has failed to meet its burden of presenting a prima facie case. This means that, even if everything it sought to prove is proven, it would still lose. The facts may not be determinative. The law is against the P or prosecution.
By a preponderance of the evidence is the degree to which either party must prove its case to win a civil suit. It means that one side’s evidence has greater weight than the other does. A unanimous jury vote is generally not required. Each jurisdiction has its own standards for a necessary majority.
Note: There are cases when the government cannot convict a D but a P in the civil suit on the same matter may win – because of the lower civil standard. Remember the OJ Simpson trials.
In a criminal case, remember that the D may have an affirmative defense. This shifts the burden to the D to prove that even if he committed a criminal act, he had a valid defense, a reason, a “license, to do the act.�
Time and its legal consequences
Time is money. You can’t sit on your rights forever. He who hesitates is lost. These truisms are also very important legal concepts.
Sometimes the mere passages of time will win-or-lose your case!
Two important legal concepts are based on time: The statute of limitations and retroactivity.
Statute of limitations
This time concept marches forward into the future from an event. It is a time limit on how long a person has for bringing a lawsuit or being prosecuted for a crime. Purpose: to eliminate “stale” cases. A plaintiff (P) shouldn’t be rewarded for laziness or procrastination and “sitting on his rights.” A defendant (D) shouldn’t have to worry forever about being sued or prosecuted. Thus, if the time has passed, a P can lose before he ever begins his case! And, of course, a D can use the statute of limitations defense to move for a dismissal of the case. A motion to dismiss asks the court to, throw the P’s case out because it is too late; it is time barred.
Specific statutes of limitations exist in various areas of the law. Each state/case/situation is different and must be checked carefully in current statutes.
Tolling: The start of the time period; the event that triggers the beginning of counting days/weeks/months/ years for the specific statute of limitations.
Note: If the P is a minor, the time does not begin to toll until he reaches the age of majority in the state in which he lives. Of course, if a guardian ad litem brings a lawsuit on his behalf, that may be done before he reaches the age of majority. Examples of specific statutes of limitations include:
Torts: Statutes of limitations generally range from one to six years. The interesting and unsettled issue is whether the starting time (beginning of tolling) is the time of injury or the time P first becomes aware of the injury (which could be far later). For example, in a products liability case, does the time begin to toll from the time the product was sold, the P used it first, or when a latent disease or condition (caused, P believes, by the product) was first discovered?
You can be sure that lawyers, judges, P’s, and D’s (often large companies) have debated these issues long and hard.
Very little time is given for tort claims due to government negligence (where the government is the D). For example, a mail truck hits you. These have a very short statute of limitations period. It’s a matter of weeks or months!
Why is this so? Because, historically, the government had immunity from being sued. It did not permit itself to be sued. This immunity is being eroded by new laws and court decisions, but the government still sets a very short period of time in which it can be sued.
Contracts: Varies from state to state. Time generally starts tolling when the K is executed.
Criminal cases: Varies from state to state, crime to crime. There are no statute of limitations for homicides (murders, manslaughter, et cetera). That’s why you read of cases prosecuted many, many years after the homicide!
Federal (not state) law, according to the Constitution governs the following areas. Thus these periods are definite and uniform throughout the U.S.
Patents: Six years to sue for unauthorized use (infringement) of your patent.
Copyright: Three years to sue for copyright infringement.
Federal income tax: Three years for the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to come after you for more taxes after the filing date or after you filed if you filed late. Thus, if you don’t file your tax return, the time does not begin to toll, and the IRS can come after you without any statute of limitations! There are longer statutes of limitations for specific tax matters, omissions, et cetera. You have to check the IRC (Internal Revenue Code). Remember though, if there is fraud, no statute of limitation applies. The government’s time to find you is limitless.
Finally, here is a concept from equity:
Laches: While no specific laws are involved, this concept prevents stale claims. Thus, even if there is no specific statute of limitations, one could use the laches defense to prevent the suit from going forward. This concept is used especially in property cases, where it’s called the “Doctrine of Stale Demands.” So, in law as in the kitchen, don’t let things get stale!
Retroactivity, unlike statute of limitations, goes backward in time. Yes, a legal time machine!
In civil cases this concept is properly called “retrospectively�. In criminal cases it’s ex post facto laws. These are banned in our Constitution. In both cases it concerns a law that relates to events or decisions in the past. In doing that, it gives the earlier event a different legal effect than it had at the time it occurred.
For example, let’s say a new state law requires couples applying for marriage licenses to take a blood test for HIV/AIDS. Such a law probably may not be applied retrospectively (retroactively) to married couples, as they had no expectation of such a requirement when they applied for licenses and have a vested interest in not taking it now and jeopardizing their valid license.
Generally, retroactive/retrospective laws are unconstitutional if they interfere with rights, which were vested under earlier laws. That would be a “taking” without due process.
Ex post facto laws are unconstitutional. (See the Constitution, Article 1, Section 9.) Ex post facto means “after the fact.” Such a law would make an act criminal (or more severe) that was innocent (or less severe) when it occurred earlier.
Why are these laws unconstitutional (not allowed)? Simply stated, because they would be unfair. People can be prosecuted only for laws that are knowable to them. The government cannot change the rules in midstream and hold people who relied on earlier laws responsible for later ones. A D must be tried under the laws which existed when the crime was committed.
However, if a later law gives new or different rights, it may be given full retroactive effect.
Nunc pro tunc is another concept that goes backward in time. It means “now for then.” It’s a way to correct the record or a document in the past to make it be as it was supposed to be . . . and not as it actually was. Confusing? For example, if your marriage license was defective for some reason, you can by a nunc pro tunc order, alter the license to reflect the way it was supposed to be. No, a defect in the license is not a quick and easy way to get a divorce or annulment!
When What Is In Your Heart and Mind Does Matter
States of Mind That Have Legal Meanings and Importance
Many cases depend on a person’s mental state of being. Did the person intend to do what he did?
How important is this? Extremely important. Think about it. They say even a dog knows if he has been kicked. Little children know to say, “But it was only an accident.” “I didn’t mean to take your bike/book/cookie.”
Thus, from dogs to children, we all know that a person’s state of mind is vital in assessing an event. Let’s see how it plays out in specific situations in both criminal and civil law.
In criminal law, the term mens rea deals with the importance of a state of mind. It means a guilty mind, guilty intent. It encompasses many of the terms described below, including intent, knowledge, malice, gross (criminal) negligence, and recklessness, among others.
Generally, a crime is the combination of a mens rea and the actus reus (the criminal act).
from: Legal Grind Press first release:
The Little Law Book is an adaptation of LEGALESE by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman (Dell 1990). The book is written for legal description and thus should not be relied upon in the execution of legal decisions. Since laws vary from State to State, we urge you to contact a legal professional in your own State.