Learn about the 10 characteristics of law, including its sources, functions, and types. Discover the fundamental features of the law and how they shape our legal system and society.
Law is the normative and institutional order through which human behavior is governed within societies, in accordance with the principles of justice and security. The Law is, in addition, the study of the set of dispositions and rules from which a society solves its conflicts and guarantees the social coexistence in a determined space and moment. This means that it refers to the object of study and the Legal Sciences themselves.
These regulations, whether fair or not, must be promulgated by the State, as guarantor of the social pact that allows for organized coexistence, that is, the social order, and are not the result of a rational and consensual agreement, but of a historical process of political, economic and social interests that made their demands prevail.
Although there are as many types of Law as there are legal conditions, there has not been a total consensus regarding its theoretical definition, and this is precisely one of its branches, the Philosophy of Law.
Characteristics Of Law
1. Historical origin
The first civilizations to develop a normative code of conduct were the ancient ones of Mesopotamia, Phenicia, Palestine, Egypt and Greece, although their constitutive principles were of a customary nature, that is, established by custom.
The Roman Empire was, in that sense, the first to invest great efforts in its own legal regulations, no doubt as a way to control the extensive of its borders and the variety of its inhabitants. Much of our current Law comes from the numerous considerations of the Roman laws.
However, the Law as we know it today is a purely state invention, and therefore it could not develop until the Modern Age, when the State was formally instituted. Guided by the philosophical precepts of humanism, the Law begins to establish itself as an instrument and an element of State, and thus Legal Sciences was formally born as a field of knowledge.
2. The rule of law
The rule of law consists in the equality of all citizens before the law, and without this angular principle it is not even possible to begin to develop a legal order, since nothing would force the powerful to submit to its precepts.
That is why a law is effective to the extent that there are institutions willing to ensure compliance with its norm, not only from coercion (discursive or, when the time comes, through the monopoly of violence that holds the State), but from its social, cultural, and historical institutionalization.
Likewise, it is a requirement for its validity that the legal regulations are public and well-known, which guarantees the publication and distribution of the same through the devices for this purpose: official gazettes, media, posters on walls, etc.
Thus, once informed, citizens know they are subject to the obligation of compliance, under penalty of penalty, which guarantees at the same time the preservation of their rights and freedoms.
Finally, the provisions of this order can never contradict the fundamental principles of law, nor should they be contradictory with others of the same or different nature. To this end, the law has interpretive tools and processes, which translate the maximum designs of the law into the concrete case.
Normativity refers to the ability of law to impose norms or standards of behavior on individuals and groups within a society. The norms established by law are designed to guide and regulate human behavior and interactions, with the goal of maintaining order and ensuring justice.
In other words, law sets out a standard of conduct that is expected of individuals and groups in society, and those who fail to comply with these standards may face legal consequences. Normativity is a key characteristic of law, as it distinguishes it from other forms of social regulation, such as social norms or customs.
The normative nature of law is reflected in its sources, such as constitutions, statutes, regulations, and judicial decisions. These sources lay out the rules and principles that individuals and institutions must follow, and establish the legal framework within which society operates.
Normativity also plays a central role in the functions of law, including the resolution of disputes, the protection of individual rights and liberties, and the promotion of social welfare. By imposing norms on behavior, law helps to create a more predictable and stable social environment, and ensures that conflicts and disputes are resolved in a fair and just manner.
Overall, normativity is a fundamental feature of law, and is essential to its role as a mechanism for regulating human behavior and promoting social order and justice.
The rules that constitute the Law have the necessary virtue of bilaterality, that is, it requires the interaction of two or more individuals who submit to the law in equal measure, above the impulses of their will.
This is one of the most substantial differences between legal and moral regulations.
This principle distinguishes legal norms from social or protocol, for example, and consists of the possibility of protecting the right to force the coercion necessary to enforce a publicly preset behavior.
This is how the State, for example, has instances for arbitration and the necessary coercion that subjects the legal system to all parties involved in a conflict. Such parties may also involve the same State, which is not exempt from the inviolable spirit of the law and may therefore also be sanctioned.
The legal laws must be born from an institution other than the recipient of the same, so that the whole society as a whole obeys a code that implies a certain degree of submission to the common will, over the personal push.
7. The legal system
The precepts of the Law are not arranged in a random way, but ordered and imbricated in order to function as a true system. In favor of this operation, the laws must have a level of rank and priority, which establishes the scope of each and the resolution in case of a possible conflict with other branches of the order.
8. Sources of Law
When making a decision or interpreting a legal rule, the institutions not only take into account what is contemplated in the codes and in the Magna Carta, but also the set of judgments, decisions and previous cases that have set some kind of precedent in The matter. This literature is known as the “sources” of Law, and can be of three types:
Historical Old documents, codes inherited from previous stages of culture or the history of law.
Real. Also known as materials, are those that contemplate historical and specific factors, whether social, political, economic or any nature that are relevant to the constitution of a legal rule.
Formal Previous executions of the State, social institutions or even individuals that create a specific framework for the law. That includes, for example:
- The legal doctrine
- The jurisprudence
- The general principles of law
- The tradition or custom
- The international treaties
- The legislation
9. Legal interpretation
The interpretation of laws and regulations is essential for legal life. The objective is to discern for each specific case the specific conditions of compliance with the stipulations of the legal framework, taking into account the relevant sources and the unique considerations of the case. It is a practical vision of Law.
There are several types of possible interpretations, namely:
- According to its formal source: Interpretation of Law, legal custom, international treaties, acts and contracts, judicial decision.
- According to its interpreter: Interpretation by way of authority (legal, judicial or administrative) and by private (usual or doctrinal).
- According to authenticity: authentic (if the promulgator and the interpreter are the same) or not authentic (if they are not).
- According to its results: Declarative interpretation (its meaning and scope are identical to the wording), extensive (results from an application of more cases than the literal wording) or restrictive (fewer cases than the wording).
10. Division of Law
Traditionally, the law is divided into two branches, each with its relevant subcategories:
- Public Law. It deals with the interest of society in general.
- Private right. It deals with the legal affairs of individuals.
In the same way, there are numerous legal disciplines, each with subcategories as well. It is about contemplating the different legal needs from the most specific perspective possible. Broadly speaking, however, the disciplines would be:
- Administrative law
- Civil law
- Community law
- Right of natural resources
- Sports law
- Economic right
- Educational law
- Legal right
- International right
- Labor law
- Military law
- Nobility law
- Criminal law
- Procedural law
- Registration and procedural law
- Religious and ecclesiastical law
- Health law
- Tourist law
- Right of animals
- Law Sciences