Law – what is it and what is it for?

Law has been created to organise human behaviour. With the legislation, the regulator has established rules whose observance should be beneficial for people themselves and whose violation is followed by punishment.

Law is a means of social control that sets certain restrictions on the members of the human society by the state, controlling people’s absolute freedom – it allows only certain kind of behaviour in some cases and not another. Law does not just create binding prohibitions, but also justifications for people to behave in certain ways (lawful behaviour). Law is not something that could be external to the society. Law functions in a social environment, developing and changing, adapting to the social circumstances.

Law as a phenomenon is characterised by a number of factors:

  • Law is a collection of rules of conduct of a general nature. Law formally covers all individuals who are in the jurisdiction of the law. The rules of conduct are addressed to all persons.
  • The system of legal provisions has been created on the basis of certain principles. Legal provisions have been systematically brought together in legislation, branches and sub-branches of law.
  • The creator of legal provisions is a competent institution (e.g. the parliament).
  • The state must ultimately ensure that the law is observed. In case of non-observance, it is guaranteed by means of state coercion. If a legal provision is not guaranteed by means of state coercion, it is not a legal provision but rather a moral precept, for example. Legal provisions are based on a legal obligation, the fulfilment of which is ensured for everybody by state coercion.

The mark of a country and its law is sovereignty. A country’s law obtains only on the territory of that state – on the area of that particular country’s jurisdiction. The state must guarantee an organisation of communal life and its stability. The object guaranteed by the state is effective law, or generally binding rules of conduct (legal provisions), and the subjects toward whom the law is guaranteed are persons whose actions the law in effect must regulate.

Today’s society still creates new preconditions and opportunities for developing economic activity in different areas of life, and higher and higher demands are made in order to materialise them. Accordingly, the need for a legal regulation of various relationships is also rising. Law and its observance is one of the most important preconditions for a civilised society and a developing economic environment.

What ensures that the law is effective?

Given that the law consists in general rules of conduct, a legal provision is intended for all people.

The state must create effective rules for people to follow them and subject their behaviour to them. That means, on the one hand, that the observance of legal provisions must be guaranteed by means of appropriate sanctions. People should feel that acting in accordance with rules is more beneficial for them than unlawful behaviour. On the other hand, legal provisions must also conform to the general logic of life, so that they would be possible and reasonable to follow.

Legal provisions can be categorised by their purpose:

  • Regulative legal provisions are directed at regulating a social relationship. Such provisions either allow some kind of activity, prohibit it, or obligate people to do something.
  • Defensive legal provisions establish legal responsibility and regulate the use of the state’s defensive measures (coercive measures).

A legal provision establishes the restrictions to the behaviour of a person subjected to it by defining the person’s rights and obligations. If the respective obligations are ignored or violated, sanctions are applied toward the persons at fault. By means of a sanction, the state ensures the effectiveness of the legal provision. A sanction is a punishment applied to the person violating the rule. Such sanctions include, for example, the revocation of a special right, a fine, detention, imprisonment, or the compulsory dissolution of a legal person.

Sanctions, however, are not an end in themselves – their purpose is to influence people to behave in lawful manner, and therefore they serve their purpose best when it is not necessary to apply them. Sanctions can be categorised by the nature of the coercive measures applied and by the bodies applying them. One can, for example, distinguish between penal, administrative and disciplinary sanctions.

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Compiled by: Ministry of Justice