Guiding Legal Principles Underlying the U.S. Court

Guiding Legal Principles Underlying the U.S. Court System. People who come before the courts are protected via presumptions, constitutional rights, and the adversarial system. Presumptions are substitutes for evidence. The most well-known presumption in criminal justice is the presumption of innocence. Constitutional rights of relevance in the courts context stem mainly from the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Ours is an adversarial justice system, which is particularly reflected in the courts. Our system is adversarial because it pits two parties, the prosecution and the defense, against each other in the pursuit of justice. The opposite of an adversarial system is an inquisitorial system of justice.

What purposes do presumptions serve?

  • What is the difference between our adversarial system of justice and the inquisitorial systems of justice that have sometimes been used in the past?

Guiding Legal Principles: Explain the Nature of Disputes

  • Courts adjudicate both civil disputes and criminal cases. In general, criminal cases involve charges against an individual brought by a government official (i.e., a prosecutor). Civil cases involve disputes between private parties or sometimes between a government entity and a private party.
  •     Categories of civil law include torts, contracts, property law, the law of succession, and family law.
  •     A crime is any action that violates a statute duly enacted by the proper public authority.
  •     Crimes can be categorized by the penalties that attach or by the type of conduct involved. Felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions differ in terms of the penalties that can attach to each.
  •     The doctrine of corpus delicti requires that a crime must be committed in order to hold someone liable for it.
  •     Elements of a crime include actus reus (the criminal act) and mens rea (the intent).
  •     Criminal defenses come in three varieties: (1) alibis, (2) justifications, and (3) excuses.
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