Legal Basics

Legal Basics: Answers to some basic questions you are too afraid to ask (but you really want to know) – Los Angeles area

QuestionsHere’s the basics about law and the legal system in the Los Angeles area. For even more basics, see our Law Basics: California and Law Basics: United States. For much, much more, get the new Law Soup book, called Law is Not for Lawyers (It’s for Everyone)!

Common terms in Los Angeles

Each region has its own lingo and ways of identifying things. To find a definition of these terms, see our glossary of terms.

What laws apply to me?

For most of the actions you take, your physical location at the time you take the action determines which laws have “jurisdiction” over you. For example, if you are driving through the City of Los Angeles, you are subject to the traffic laws of (1) the City of L.A., (2) the state of California, and (3) the United States (federal laws). If you then drive through the city of Beverly Hills, you would be subject to that city’s traffic laws instead of L.A.’s traffic laws (but note that city traffic laws don’t vary too much from the state laws, except for parking laws and some other things).

However, actions that affect other cities or states (for example, shipping a product to a customer in another state) may also subject you to the laws of these other cities or states.

How do I find out whether I am within the official boundaries of a particular city?

Figuring out what city you are in (and thus which laws apply) is not always so easy, especially in the greater Los Angeles area. For more on this, see “What City am I in?

For answers to the following questions, see Law Basics: United States

If I happen to break a law that I wasn’t aware of, can’t I just claim I didn’t know about it and get off the hook?

Can a law be illegal?

If there is no law against something, is it legal?

What happens if federal, state, or local laws conflict?

Further Resources

For much, much more, get the new Law Soup book, called Law is Not for Lawyers (It’s for Everyone)!

For more specific legal information, check out our Legal Guides.

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