Introduction to law things to know

by John Bandler

Here are some "things to know" about basic law. This will aid most everyone in understanding basic things around us and in the news (law affects us all daily).

If you are a student of mine, you will probably see these questions in the future (depending on what course you are taking).

  • Law will never affect us in real life. True/False and Explain
    • False. Law affects all of us, everyday, whether we like it or not. Law is all around us. Law is in the news everyday. We need to know something about law for our personal and professional lives. We make legal decisions regularly, and will face serious legal issues at least a few times in our lives. We are a nation of laws. Every resident should know something about laws. Every citizen must know certain things about law to uphold their duties of citizenship (jury duty and voting).
  • What is the highest law in the U.S.?
    • U.S. Constitution
  • What is the highest law in the U.S. regarding whether and how government can restrict speech?
    • The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
  • What is the highest law in the U.S. regarding government searches and seizures?
    • The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
  • List the three branches of U.S. Government
    • Executive, Legislative, Judicial
  • What does the Fourth Amendment protect against?
    • The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search or seizure by the government. It is a limit on the powers of government to search and seize property and people.
  • If a judge in a criminal case decides police obtained evidence unlawfully, what might the judge do?
    • Suppress, or exclude, that wrongfully obtained evidence. This is pursuant to the exclusionary rule and the Fourth Amendment.
  • What does the First Amendment protect against?
    • The First Amendment is a limit on the powers of government to restrict or punish speech and expression. It protects against unreasonable restrictions by the government on speech, expression, or religion.
  • If a person is unhappy with the result of their trial and what happened in the trial court, what can they do?
    • Appeal (to an appellate court)
  • Why are case decisions important?  (for people other than the case participants)
    • They establish law (case law, precedent, stare decisis)
  • What concept describes the weight given to a prior decision by a court?
    • Legal precedent (stare decisis, legal authority)
  • What is the highest court in the Country?
    • United States Supreme Court
  • What is the difference between state and federal prosecutions?
    • State prosecutors enforce state law in state courts, in front of a state judge. Federal prosecutors enforce federal law in federal courts in front of a federal judge.
  • How are federal laws passed?
    • Passed by the legislature (US House of Representatives and Senate) and then the President signs it
  • What does the U.S. Constitution establish?
    • Our system of federal government, limitations on government, three branches of government, checks and balances, Bill of Rights to protect individual rights.
  • What is the difference between criminal law and civil law?
    • Criminal law is on behalf of society to deter, punish, rehabilitate criminal offenders. Civil law is more individualized to pursue more individualized wrongs and obtain compensation.
  • What document contains the fundamental principles underlying all U.S. laws?
    • U.S. Constitution
  • What is the difference between the federal government and state governments?
    • Each are separate sovereigns, with separate laws & powers, their own branches
  • Name some important bodies (areas) of law
    • Criminal law, civil law, constitutional law, contract law, tort law, negligence law, maritime law, international law, law of warfare, privacy law, cyberlaw?, etc.
  • Spell out what USC. stands for? (e.g., 18 USC. § 1030)
    • USC stands for United States Code, the main place for all federal statutes, duly enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President.
  • Spell out what CFR stands for? (e.g., 31 CFR § 597.307)
    • Code of Federal Regulations (the main place for all federal regulations, duly put forth by a regulator)
  • What is the highest court in New York State and is an appellate court?
    • New York State Court of Appeals
  • What is the name of the most powerful trial level court in New York State (and remember it is a trial level court and not an appellate court)?
    • New York State Supreme Court
  • Spell out what “PL” stands for in NYS PL, and say what it is
    • PL stands for "Penal Law", it is New York State's criminal substantive law, or criminal code. It defines criminal conduct.
  • Spell out what “CPL” stands for in NYS CPL, and say what it is
    • CPL stands for Criminal Procedure Law, it is New York's law of criminal procedure, from investigation, search warrants, arrest, arraignment, indictment, motions, discovery, hearings, trial, sentencing, post trial proceedings, appeals, and so on.


These are short Q&As and cannot be expected to capture all nuances of all terms.

Purpose of this page

This page is a study aid for my students, and a place for me to draw quiz and assignment questions from.

The goal is for students to learn important concepts, especially foundational concepts that provide footholds for learning more complex concepts. This is the learning concept of "scaffolding", where you start low, learn things, build the knowledge and concept complexity up.

I used to emphasize these things only in class, quizzes, and assignments, but then realized more was needed, because by the end of the semester, some students had not learned some of these things. By providing this study page and linking to it, I find that students have more opportunity to study and then learn better.


This page is hosted at, copyright John Bandler, all rights reserved.

Posted 12/12/2022 based on years of teaching. Updated 2/6/2024