‘I know my rights,’ is a popular phrase tossed around the UK especially when people have a run-in with the authorities. That’s not in any way wrong; especially given that self-expression is a right by itself. However, you would be amazed to know just how little of ‘my rights’ that most people who shout the phrase know!
Again, not an issue, because the phrase is quite often said in a state of inebriation; think of people who run a light or exceed the speed limit. Even people who do not know the law have a right to legal representation. After all, isn’t law a complex discipline that should be left to lawyers only?
Yes and no. Yes, you do not have to learn every last legal issue. Leave your lawyers to yawn as they memorise that. No, you should not be entirely ignorant of your constitutional rights because:
- Your lawyer is not your shadow; they will not always be with you
- You are likely not to take advantage of legal rights that you don’t know of
Legal Rights vs Moral Rights
It is important to set these two aspects apart even before trying to understand what falls in which category. Legal rights are defined as those that are guaranteed by the law, while moral rights are dictated by the general structure of society; religion, culture and personal beliefs etc.
Legal rights are directly enforceable, but moral rights are not expressly challengeable. However, the moral rights of society play a huge role in setting its legal rights, since people place laws according to their values.
Examples of Legal Rights
- The right to own property
One is free to own what they want so long as it is not prohibited by the law. If one owns a MacBook pro second hand computer, for instance, they have the right to use such a gadget without interference.
- The right to represent oneself
A citizen may decide to represent themselves in court in the UK. Such a legal right is however subject to a having a certain degree of understanding of the court’s procedures.
- The right to die
This is a right with an ongoing back-and-forth debate in the UK, but actually, it does exist. It is entwined with the assisted dying legislative provisions.
There are, of course, legal rights that apply in a region just because that area subscribes to the global society. The human rights which are included in the Bill of Rights, for instance, apply as legal rights in all regions governed by the UN charter. It is for this region that these rights are regarded as universal.
Knowing your rights should be a continuous process. Just as it is said that ignorance of the law is no defence, it should be insisted that the same is self-detrimental.