Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'M'
If you've ever tried to read a legal document or comb through a state code section, you've likely encountered a few words or phrases that left you scratching your head.
You've just encountered legalese, the native language of the legal world. Understanding legalese can make seemingly difficult legal concepts much easier to understand. To that end, our series Legalese From A to Z breaks down the language of the law one letter at a time. This week, we take a look at five legal terms that start with the letter "M":
Mailbox rule. In contract law, the mailbox rule works to make a person's acceptance of another person's offer to enter into a contract effective when sent through the mail or other means agreed to by the parties. The mailbox rule typically comes into effect when the person who made the offer -- known as the offeror -- attempts the revoke the offer before she's received the other person's acceptance, but is prevented in legally doing so due to the offeree's mailing of his acceptance.
Malice. In the legal context, malice generally refers to a person's state of mind in intending to cause harm to another person through an unlawful act or acting with wanton disregard for value of human life. Malice may be required for conviction for certain criminal offenses. For example, murder typically requires that a defendant acted with "malice aforethought": actual or implied malice with some degree of deliberation, premeditation or wanton disregard of human life.
Maritime law. Maritime law is the law that controls the commerce and navigation of the high seas. The United States has its own system of maritime law -- specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution as being within the jurisdiction of the federal courts -- but in addition there are various forms of international maritime law which may apply to crimes or injuries that occur on board vessels in international waters such as cruise ships.
Miranda warnings. Anyone who has ever watched a TV or movie police drama is doubtlessly familiar with Miranda warnings, in which law enforcement advise a person being arrested of his "right to remain silent." The Miranda warning gets its name from the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, which prohibited, in criminal cases, the use of statements stemming from custodial interrogations of a defendant, unless that defendant was informed of his constitutional rights. Those include: the right to remain silent, the possibility that anything you say can and will be used against you in court, the right to an attorney, and the right to have an attorney appointed for you if you can't afford one.
Mitigation of damages. In both tort law (such as personal injury) and contract law, a person who is injured or damaged by another has a duty to mitigate his or her losses. For example, a person who is injured as a result of another person's negligence is generally required to follow the course of treatment directed by medical professionals. Any further damages or injury caused by the victim's failure to follow such treatment may not be recoverable in a lawsuit.
If you need help with defining a legal word or phrase, check out FindLaw's Legal Dictionary for free access to more than 8,000 definitions of legal terms. In next week's Legalese From A to Z, we'll check out five more legal terms you may not know, beginning with the letter "N."