American legal system General outlook The main document on which everything is based and referred to in the USA is Constitution. What is it in terms of legality? The US Constitution: 1. is the foundation of the federal government of the US 2. and it sets out the boundaries of Federal Law History of the USA law The law of the United States was originally derived from the common law system of English law which was in force at the time of the Revolutionary War. U.S. law has diverged greatly from its English ancestor both in terms of substance and procedure, and has incorporated a number of civil law innovations. The US Constitution applies to everyone in the US, irrespective of citizenship or immigration status, and even illegal immigrants have most of the same basic legal rights as US citizens. History of the USA law The law of the United States was originally derived from the common law system of English law which was in force at the time of the Revolutionary War. U.S. law has diverged greatly from its English ancestor both in terms of substance and procedure, and has incorporated a number of civil law innovations. The US Constitution applies to everyone in the US, irrespective of citizenship or immigration status, and even illegal immigrants have most of the same basic legal rights as US citizens. Most rights and freedoms enjoyed by Americans are enshrined in the first ten amendments of the US Constitution and popularly known as the ‘Bill of Rights’. The following is the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution, called the "Bill of Rights", these amendments were ratified on December 15, 1791. This document covers the following points: • Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition • Right to keep and bear arms • Conditions for quarters of soldiers • Right of search and seizure regulated • Provisions concerning prosecution • Right to a speedy trial, witnesses, etc. • Right to a trial by jury • Excessive bail, cruel punishment • Rule of construction of Constitution • Rights of the States under Constitution The following should be said about the US Judiciary System. The US Judiciary • is independent of the government • consists of the Supreme Court, the US Court of Appeals and the US District Courts. The Supreme Court in its turn • consists of nine judges who are appointed for life by the President. • its decisions are final and legally binding on all parties. • reviews the activities of state and federal governments and decides whether laws are constitutional. • has the right to nullify laws passed by Congress and even declare the actions of US presidents unconstitutional. • and when appointing a Supreme Court judge, the President’s selection is based on a candidate’s political and other views, which must usually correspond with his own. Dual-sovereign system of American federalism is called dual because it consists of: • the federal sovereign • and each state is a sovereign If you look at the map below you will see the states of the country, what a huge territory they occupy and you may suppose how different they may be in culture, customs, traditions and even the language (you may know that Spanish is widely spoken in the south, that there are some French and German settlements in the north and so on). Never assume that the law is the same in different states (Conflict of State Laws is a popular course in American law schools). There are many variations in state and local laws. These are some particular laws which are binding only for the states they were made in. and as you can see they are quite funny, intriguing and bizarre. But what can Federal Government do with it if each state can issue laws of its own? So, let’s have a look at them. Dumb Laws in Alabama • It is illegal to maim oneself to escape duty. • You may not drive barefooted. • It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church. • Masks may not be worn in public. Dumb Laws in Georgia • Members of the state assembly cannot be ticketed for speeding while the state assembly is in session. • Signs are required to be written in English. Dumb Laws in Minnesota • It is illegal to stand around any building without a good reason to be there. • It is illegal to sleep naked. Dumb Laws in New York • You may not smoke within 100 feet of the entrance to a public building. • It is against the law to throw a ball at someone’s head for fun. Dumb Laws in California •Women may not drive in a house coat. •Bathhouses are against the law. If you think that we just made up these laws in order to amuse you, maybe even make you laugh, you are mistaken. Let’s take the last in the list – “Bathhouses are against the law” made in the state of California. The full text of the regulation is below, so we just gave you the gist of this ridiculous law. CALIFORNIA CODES PENAL CODE SECTION 11225 • (a) Every building or place used for the purpose of illegal gambling as defined by state law or local ordinance, lewdness, assignation, or prostitution, and every building or place in or upon which acts of illegal gambling as defined by state law or local ordinance, lewdness, assignation, or prostitution, are held or occur, is a nuisance which shall be enjoined, abated, and prevented, and for which damages may be recovered, whether it is a public or private nuisance. • • Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to apply the definition of a nuisance to a private residence where illegal gambling is conducted on an intermittent basis and without the purpose of producing profit for the owner or occupier of the premises. • • (b) Every building or place used as a bathhouse which as a primary activity encourages or permits conduct that according to the guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control can transmit AIDS, including, but not limited to, anal intercourse, oral copulation, or vaginal intercourse, is a nuisance which shall be enjoined, abated, and prevented, and for which damages may be recovered, whether it is a public or private nuisance. • • For purposes of this subdivision, a "bathhouse" is to be defined as a business which, as its primary purpose, provides facilities for a spa, whirlpool, communal bath, sauna, steam bath, mineral bath, mud bath, or facilities for swimming. • • Why does this law exist? • This law was enacted shortly after the AIDS epidemic came into the News in the 1980's. Bathhouses were one of the primary places people could go for anonymous sex. This law was designed to curtail exposure to HIV and other STD's. So, that’s what America like!
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