What does "Spirit of the law vs. Letter of the law" mean?

Update:

Basically it means what ever the police officer wants to do not what the law is?

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  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The spirit of the law, means its intent, what the law is supposed to require or enforce.

    The letter of the law can mean that in some incidents the actual intent or spirit of the law is not being followed, because when people are involved sometimes things are not necessarily black or white, meaning that the police need to use common sense rather than only the book in some cases.

  • murtha
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Letter Of The Law

  • 4 years ago

    Spirit Of The Law

  • thomas
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    Spirit of the law is the actual intent of the law.

    Letter of the law is how it's actually written, often this doesn't completely define the spirit of it.

    Lets say for example there is a law about vicious dogs that goes like this.

    Any vicious dog will be euthanized.

    A vicious dog is defined as any dog that has bitten a human or caused injury to another animal.

    Now the spirit of the law would be to remove dogs who have caused injury to others so they can't do it again. The letter of the law however could be far more reaching. Puppies have a Habit of biting during play until they're taught they're not allowed to. By the letter of the law every puppy would then have to be euthanized. The letter of the law also doesn't allow for dogs who attacked in defense of their owners. Would they warrant euthanization as well?

    I hope that made the point.

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  • 7 years ago

    "Basically it means what ever the police officer wants to do not what the law is?"

    Not really, no. Spirit of the law is not a technical term, it is just an expression that describes enforcement of the intent of the law. It can be applied by either the police or the courts, but its doesn't describe free-range decision making on the part of the officer, or that the officer can just do what he wants. It doesn't mean the officer can just make up laws or reasons to write tickets or make arrests, and it also doesn't mean the officer can just ignore any law he personally disagrees with.

    Spirit of the law is just a slang term to describe the intent or purpose of a law. Letter of the law is a slang term to describe the actual law exactly as written. I think you are putting too much emphasis on these terms. They are not technical terms with legal definitions. Just slang terms to describe enforcement policies of some laws.

  • 7 years ago

    The 'Letter of the Law' basically means there is no interpretation or judgment. "Spirit of the Law" is more or less how it is actually used in a practical sense. For example, by the "Letter of the Law," if a cop clocks you going 68 MPH in a 65 MPH zone, he should stop you and give you a ticket. The "Spirit of the Law" is to keep people from driving like idiots and a steady flow of traffic. More than likley a cop would not pull you over for going 68 in a 65 zone.

  • 7 years ago

    Spirit of the law is what ever the officer wants to do or not do. The letter of the law is what the officer is suppose to do.

    If an officer doesn't want to stop a driver for violating a traffic law that would be called the Spirit of the law. Since the letter of the law is what the law means and the officer should follow it.

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    5 years ago

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  • 7 years ago

    Spirit means intent. Letter means actual wording in the law. To drive you have a driver's license and liability insurance. That is the spirit. the actual written law may say you have to have proof of a driver's license and insurance.

    A police officer stops you and you don't have your cards. You get a citation. (letter of the law)

    But you appear at a hearing with your cards, and the charge gets dismissed. (spirit of the law)

  • 7 years ago

    In the letter of the law, your going to pass go and head straight to jail, while the spirit of the law gives sole discretion to the arresting officer.

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