beyond a reasonable doubt- Known as the prosecutor's "burden of proof," the jury are instructed by the judge that a defendant can only be found guilty if they are convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the defendant's guilt. In criminal matters, a conviction under this burden of proof must be made by each of the twelve jurors. bigamy The act of having more then one spouse. Such a marriage is considered legally void. A person who knowingly enters into a bigamous marriage is guilty of the crime of bigamy. These types of cases are rarely prosecuted.
constitutional law - The supreme written law of the land making up the bill of rights and instuctions on how to govern though limited powers. It provides fundamental rights and limits to government action.
constitution- The U.S. Constitution was originally adopted in convention on September 17, 1787. It was thereafter ratified by the states and amended 27 times. It is the grounding for all decisions by our courts including the Supreme Court. It is the legal premise from which individual rights are given the force of law.
federal preemption- The doctrine that federal law overrides state law. In family law, federal preemption comes into play in cases of military pay, social security benefits, railroad retirement benefits, and other property provided through federal programs, as well as in issues covered by ERISA.
indigent- A person in poverty who cannot afford a lawyer to represent them in a criminal matter. In those cases, the person is appointed free counsel known as a public defender.
jurisdiction- A system of courts of law limited to a geographical area which litigate issues that arise out of that geographical area. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases involving violations of federal law.
justice- A process of rules and judgments predicated upon principles of fairness and order in which the determination of guilt or innocence is determined by a formal judicial hearing.
law- A system of rules and procedures employed by organized society to regulate the conduct of people in that society. Most legal philosophers believe that for law to be considered enforceable it must serve the good of society as a whole. Others believe that law is whatever the rulers say it is and no more. The original root of law comes from the Bible, in which the first writings of what is good and evil were detailed for all to read. For example, the phrase "eye for an eye" can be found in early teachings. The first law system which had a direct influence on American law came from the Roman Emperor Justinian in 528. The principal source of American law is from "common law" which came from England. Common law is based on custom and precedent. Legislative law is based on the written code.
Supreme Court- The highest court in the United States. The court is empowered to be the final judge of state and federal law. The court has the power to hear constitutional questions and appeals from state constitutional matters.
unconstitutional- That governmental action, law or police conduct which violates the fundamental principles of the constitution. The ultimate determination of constitutionality is the U.S. Supreme Court.
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