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.
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.