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The law of the land is the body of law which applies generally to all citizens. It includes law which spells out civil rights for citizens of a nation, and laws which describe responsibilities and duties which citizens are expected to fulfill. The term crops up in numerous key legal documents, including the Magna Carta and the Constitution of the United States.
All of the laws in a nation's jurisprudence are included under the law of the land. One of the keys to this term is that it protects the right to due process. People cannot be tried, convicted, or punished under laws which are not part of the law of the land, as this violates due process. This protects the right to access the legal system and to be treated fairly under the public law.
In the United States, the law of the land comes up in what is known as the "supremacy clause" in the Constitution. Under this clause, the Constitution reflect the highest level of law in the United States. The Constitution states:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
This is what gives Federal law precedence over laws set on the state and local level. The Constitution is the definitive document when it comes to the law. Supremacy has been challenged at various points in American history, as numerous American states have wanted to pass laws such as stiffer environmental protection requirements that appear to conflict with the Constitution.
Many nations reference the law of the land in their jurisprudence, and it is an important legal concept. People who are not sure about whether or not they are being treated fairly under the law can consult a lawyer to determine whether or not they have been given the rights to which they are entitled. In places like the United States, for example, all citizens are entitled to the same rights, whether or not they have been accused of criminal activity, such as the right to a trial and the right to access a lawyer.
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