Chapter 4: The Rule of Law

Penal Code

The criminal law of a political jurisdiction.


A violation of the civil law.

Civil Law

One of two general types of law practiced in the United States (the other is criminal law); a means of resolving conflicts between individuals. It includes personal injury claims (torts), the law of contracts and property, and subjects such as administrat

Substantive Law

The body of law that defines criminal offenses and their penalties.

Procedural Law

The body of law that governs the ways substantive laws are administered; sometimes called adjective or remedial law.

Due Process of Law

The rights of people suspected of or charged with crimes.


An ideal characteristic of criminal law, referring to its legitimate source. Only violations of rules made by the state, the political jurisdiction that enacted the laws, are crimes.


An ideal characteristic of criminal law, referring to its scope. Although civil law may be general in scope, criminal law should provide strict definitions of specific acts.


An ideal characteristic of criminal law: the applicability of the law to all persons, regardless of social status.


An ideal characteristic of criminal law: the enforcement of the laws against anyone who violates them, regardless of social status.

Penal Sanction

An ideal characteristic of criminal law: the principle that violators will be punished or at least threatened with punishment by the state.


A decision that forms a potential basis for deciding the outcomes of similar cases in the future; a by product of decisions made by trial and appellate court judges, who produce case law whenever they render a decision in a particular case.

Stare Decisis

The principle of using precedents to guide future decisions in court cases; Latin for "to stand by decided cases


Explorations or inspections, by law enforcement officers, of homes, premises, vehicles, or persons, for the purpose of discovering evidence of crimes or persons who are accused of crimes.


The taking of persons or property into custody in response to violations of the criminal law.


A written order from a court directing law enforcement officers to conduct a search or to arrest a person.


The seizure of a person or the taking of a person into custody, either actual physical custody, as when a suspect is handcuffed by a police officer, or constructive custody, as when a person peacefully submits to a police officer's control.


An illegal substance or object.

Mere Suspicion

The standard of proof with the least certainty; a "gut feeling." With mere suspicion, a law enforcement officer cannot legally even stop a suspect.

Reasonable Suspicion

A standard of proof that is more than a gut feeling. It includes the ability to articulate reasons for the suspicion. With reasonable suspicion, a law enforcement officer is legally permitted to stop and frisk a suspect.


Conducting a search for weapons by patting the outside of a suspect's clothing, feeling for hard objects that might be weapons.

Probable Cause

The amount of proof necessary for a reasonably intelligent person to believe that a crime has been committed or that items connected with criminal activity can be found in a particular place. It is the standard of proof needed to conduct a search or to ma

Preponderance of Evidence

Evidence that more likely than not outweighs the opposing evidence, or sufficient evidence to overcome doubt or speculation.

Clear and Convincing Evidence

The standard of proof required in some civil cases and, in federal courts, the standard of proof necessary for a defendant to make a successful claim of insanity.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The standard of proof necessary to find a defendant guilty in a criminal trial.

Exclusionary Rule

The rule that illegally seized evidence must be excluded from trials in federal court.

Double Jeopardy

The trying of a defendant a second time for the same offenses when jeopardy attaches in the first trial and a mistrial was not declared.


Being a witness against oneself. If forced, it is a violation of the Fifth Amendment.


An admission by a person accused of a rime that he or she committed the offense charged.

Doctrine of Fundamental Fairness.

The rule that makes confessions inadmissible in criminal trials if they were obtained by means of either psychological manipulation or "third-degree" methods.


The place of the trial. It must be geographically appropriate.


A written order issued by a court that requires a person to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony. It can also require that documents and objects be made available for examination by the court.