The characters of the rule of law

Goal :

Explain the compulsory, general and abstract nature of the rule of law.
Does the rule of law apply to individuals? What happens if the rule is violated? Is everyone affected by the rule of law?

  1. Binding nature of the rule of law

The rule of law is said to be obligatory because it is imposed on everyone , who has the duty to respect it. The Highway Code is mandatory, it is binding on everyone.
From the moment a person violates a rule of law, he incurs a sanction.

  1. Criminal sanctions

A sentence is a sanction imposed by the state , to punish a person who has committed an offense . Examples of offenses: drunk driving, swindling, etc.

Depending on the seriousness of the offense, the penalty may be corporal punishment , which consists of imprisoning the perpetrator of the offense. The death penalty can no longer be imposed in France, because it was abolished in 1981.

The penalty can be a financial penalty  : the offender will have to pay a fine. Example: fine for speeding.

  1. Civil sanctions

The aim of a sanction may be to repair damage caused to a person (in law, we speak of damage or prejudice).

  • The sanction can then consist, for the author of the damage, in paying the victim a sum of money, called damages, in compensation for the damage.

Example: damages paid by a pétanque player to a restaurant owner, whose window has been broken by a ball.

  • Another civil sanction may be nullity. It is a sanction that can be applied when an act has been performed in violation of legal conditions.

For example, a minor entered into a contract for the sale of property, but being a minor, they did not have the capacity. The sale is void, it is supposed to never have existed: both the buyer and the seller must return what they have received.

  • A third civil sanction can be forced execution. The public force is used to force the person who has violated the rule of law to comply (seizures, confiscations, expulsions).
  1. General character of the rule of law

The rule of law is said to be general because it applies to all citizens . It is not made to deal with special cases. They say she is impersonal .
According to article 29-3 of the Civil Code, for example, “ Anyone has the right to act to have it decided that he or she does not have the status of French. The public prosecutor has the same right with regard to any person. He is a necessary defendant for any action declaring nationality. He must be questioned whenever “. This rule of law concerns all individuals without distinction.

Certain legal rules apply only to certain categories of persons, but they apply to all persons placed in the same legal situation.
Example: The legal working time for employees is set at 35 hours. This rule of law concerns only employees, but it covers any person in the situation of salaried work.

  1. Abstract nature of the rule of law

The rule of law is said to be abstract because it relates to a situation which is likely to occur , but does not describe a real situation .
For example, article 1382 of the Civil Code provides that ”  Any fact whatsoever of man which causes damage to another obliges the person through whose fault he has arrived to repair it  “. This rule of law provides for a particular legal situation: that where one person causes damage to another, this situation is likely to occur, but it is an abstraction.

That is whycourt decisions are not rules of law, but individual measures intended to settle real situations .
Example of a court decision: “The court orders the newspaper XXX to pay 4,000 euros in damages to Mr. Dupont for invasion of privacy.” This court decision settles a lived and real situation, based on an abstract rule of law (Extract from article 9 of the Civil Code: “  Everyone has the right to respect for his private life  ”). The rule of law is a principle, and the court decision is an application of this principle to a reality .

The essential

The rule of law is binding , it is binding on everyone , who has the duty to respect it. An individual who violates a rule of law incurs a sanction .

criminal sanction is a punishment imposed by the State , intended to punish the perpetrator of an offense.
The civil penalties tend to repair damage sustained by the victim, and may take the form of damages, a nullity or enforcement.

The rule of law has a general character and applies to all individuals: it is not made to settle particular cases. The rule of law is abstract in character because it does not describe real situations, but refers to situations that are likely to occur .


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