It seems like in our modern society for every situation, be it a dispute between nations regarding their borders or a family quarrel, there is a law out there which will govern how the situation should be solved. And indeed, the legal systems all around the world have progressed to the point where they don’t simply overview how institutions or individuals should behave towards one another but instead cover a much larger ground. Naturally, with such great variety of legal matters, a need to classify them arose. It is important to understand what counts as private law and what situations and actions fall under the category of public law in order to be aware of how most of our societies are structured.

Public Law

In short, public law deals with everything that relates to a state or a society as a whole. They can be acts committed by individuals, such as robbery, but by definition those acts are supposed to affect the entire society, be it directly or indirectly. These laws can oftentimes be quite abstract and leave space for interpretation. This occurs because they are supposed to cover a vast amount of situations and create an unbiased grounds where things of major importance could be decided. Public law includes some well-known branches of law, such as:

  • Administrative law – those laws that deal with governmental institutions, such as the Department of Education or Ministry of Transportation.
  • Constitutional laws, in other words, laws included in the Constitution that are meant to protect the rights of citizens.
  • Criminal laws – laws that decide what happens to those who commit crimes.
  • Municipal laws – those that govern cities or towns.
  • International laws – the broadest in scope of all, these laws govern how states and international organizations interact with one another on the world stage.

Private Law

Private law is a lot more narrow and specific in scope. It is enforced when, for instance, you decide to throw a party, don’t warn your neighbours and they call the police because you are playing music too loudly late at night; you are infringing on your neighbours right to peacefully rest at home at a time that is legally considered to be quiet hours. Some categories of private law are:

Contract law – supervises the process and protects the rights of individuals entering into a contract.

Property law – ensure everyone has the right to their property, determined forms of ownership as well as tenant and landlord relationships.

Family law – governs family-related disputes, domestic issues, such as divorce or child support.

Tort law – this includes obligations, remedies and rights of those to whom someone else has done harm, be it physical, material or psychological.

Succession law – governs how property is transferred and inherited.

In general, since private law deals with acts and events of more narrow scope, the fines and punishments related to disobeying it are usually a lot less serious. That being said, it is also oftentimes a lot less self-evident. For instance, it is easily understood by most that robbery is a crime that will be followed by legal consequences. However, when it comes to private law, countries tend to have a lot of nuanced and scrutinized laws, thus, when it comes to individual level, it is crucial to be well aware of everything that might be considered as a violation of private law.