It’s no secret that the US legal system has some quirks. Navigating this field can be extremely difficult, and even long-time veterans of law in America can struggle to understand the rules from time to time.
While everyone is entitled to a fair trial and should be subject to the same rules, this outcome is rarely successful, and there are plenty of reasons that cause issues like this. To give you a better understanding of the US legal system, this article will be exploring some of the features that contribute to the confusion surrounding it. This should make it easier to keep yourself on the straight and narrow path.
State vs. Federal Law
The US Federal Government is possibly the most important power in the US. Charged with governing the entire country, there are a lot of laws that are considered federal that apply to each and every state. This means that the president or senate can pass laws that impact everyone, but it isn’t quite as simple as you might think.
Alongside federal laws, states can also work to bring their own laws in. These types of laws only apply to the state that they are made for, and they often contradict federal laws that have been in place for a very long time. A great example of this is found with cannabis. This substance is considered illegal under federal law, but several states around the country have made it legal to buy it for recreational and medical use.
This means that people traveling between two states that don’t prohibit cannabis use or ownership can still get into trouble for carrying cannabis with them, as they will be moving through a jurisdiction that is controlled by federal law enforcement. Expunging weed charges can be extremely difficult when you find yourself in federal court, making this a serious issue that can get you into a lot of trouble if you don’t follow the right rules.
Amendments & Changes
Any good legal system needs to be subject to change, with society’s morals and ethics changing as time goes by. While it will usually take quite some time for laws to change and people are given plenty of warning, it can be all too easy to miss changes like this. Law enforcement has a particularly difficult job here, as they have to keep their employees trained to deal with laws that are always changing.
This sort of issue has been very apparent since cannabis use started to become legal in many states. Federal law enforcement officers have gotten into trouble for trying to enforce laws that no longer exist, hurting honest businesses and citizens in the process. It’s impossible to expect everyone to keep their ears to the ground when it comes to legal amendments, but it’s always worth knowing your stuff if you think you could find yourself in this position.
Police and other types of law enforcement officers in the US have a lot of power to operate under their own discretion when it comes to charging people with crimes. This can mean that people get different punishments for the same crime, and some people can get away with committing crimes that other people would suffer dearly for.
It would be very tricky to overcome this area without making the legal system incredibly strict, but it is something that law enforcement agencies need to work on. There is a common trend in the US of minorities being treated more harshly for crimes than white people. This isn’t always the case, but the discretion that is given to police officers means that their own emotions can easily be wrapped up in their job. This doesn’t stop with police, though, as judges and other legal professionals can also suffer from biases like this.
It would be wrong to talk about this sort of issue without mentioning both the BLM and the Capitol Hill protests from 2020 and 2021. Even during peaceful BLM protests, tear gas, riot gear, and other extreme measures were used by law enforcement to deal with crowds of mainly black and brown people. During the Capitol Hill protests in January, though, police were far less heavy-handed in their approach, eventually getting overwhelmed.
It can be very clear when you watch the news that different laws can apply to businesses when compared to normal people. Much like countries like the UK, the US has laws in place that enable businesses to act as their own entity. This makes it possible to trade stocks and enables business owners to escape personal liability for any mistakes their company makes, but it also means that businesses can be subject to different rules from normal people in the legal system.
It would be impossible to put a business in prison, and this is one of the key reasons that they are able to follow different rules. While it certainly depends on the type of rules being broken, businesses will often be able to get away with financial offenses that would put a normal person behind bars. This can seem very unfair, though very few businesses take advantage of this in ways that could cause damage to society, and it wouldn’t be possible for giant companies to form without rights like this.
An Array of Agencies
The US has been extremely proactive when it comes to the law over the last couple of centuries. There are a lot of different enforcement agencies that work for the government, both on a federal and a state level. While each of these groups has its own defined jobs, though, there can often be confusing when two agencies collide and have to work together on the same cases in the legal system.
A great example of this can be found in the world of terror. The CIA works extremely hard to monitor threats and find signs of terrorism aimed at the US, but groups like Homeland Security may also be interested in areas like this. This has caused agencies to work on the same cases in the past, but they aren’t able to share information because of the rules that they have to follow. Of course, though, while this can cause confusion, coordinated efforts between different law enforcement agencies in the US have brought about some of the biggest legal success stories in the history of the country.
Training has always been key to policing, but this is an area that the US seems to struggle with. To start, unlike many other countries, law enforcement agencies will often prefer to hire people with a military background. This means that they have been trained very well to fight and deal with disruption, but may also lack the skills that are required to cool situations down. While this isn’t always an issue, it can mean that police forces have very few voices to moderate those who have a tendency to be violent.
Alongside this, police agencies will also often have very little money for training in the field. Officers will only have to work for a few months before they can carry a gun and have the power to arrest people, and this can be an issue when the trust is given to the wrong person. Those without proper training can often make situations more dangerous than they have to be.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to train police officers and other law enforcement groups to treat people fairly. Many would argue that racism is a large issue in this field, and it can be plain to see that many of the bad legal situations that occur could be avoided with the right work. A big part of this has to come from the government, though, as police forces simply don’t have the resources to spark reform amongst their own ranks. Some would like to defund the police to solve issues like this, though this approach isn’t necessarily the best option.
Breaking the law is all too easy when you don’t understand it. Alongside this, people often find that they get treated differently to others when they find themselves at the hand of the law. These issues are likely to take a very long time to be solved, and this makes it well worth understanding the law, your rights, and the issues that surround this area. Of course, though, this doesn’t mean that the legal system is bad; it just needs a little bit of work.