Rules vs. Laws

What is the difference between a rule and a law?

While many differences exist between rules and laws, the biggest is the CONSEQUENCE.

RULES are a set of instructions to help people live and work together. Certain rules can be established at home, school, or the workplace, and often vary depending on the person creating the rule or the conditions and circumstances. For example, two families, Family A and Family B could have the same rule that homework must be finished before their children can watch TV. However, if this rule is broken in Family A, the children lose TV privileges for a week, but if the rule is broken in Family B the children don’t receive their weekly allowance and have to do an extra hour of chores. Because rules are personal in nature, the makers of rules can be flexible in establishing the consequences for breaking them. As in the above example, the same behavior can lead to different consequences depending on the situation and the people involved.

LAW is a set of legal rules designed to help keep order, protect property, and keep people safe. Laws are created and established by the government and hold everyone to the same standard. Unlike rules, in most cases, the consequences for breaking a law are pre-determined and do not vary based on the conditions or circumstances. The consequence for breaking a law can be a criminal conviction, penalties such as paying a fine, community service, or jail time. Also, when you break the law and are convicted, the government creates documentation of this conviction in the form of a “record” that is kept public and allows people and institutions such as employers, banks, colleges, and the armed forces to view your record at any time.

What are they? set of instructions which tells us the way things are to be done set of instructions which tells us the way things are to be done
Who creates? Individuals Government
Who enforces? Individuals creating the rules Police and Prosecutors
Consequences? vary depending on the rule pre-determined
Determination of Consequences? Conditions and Circumstances of the Behavior or Act Behavior or Act itself
Nature of Consequences? Flexible Rigid


Different laws exist for specific areas such as driver’s licenses, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, employment, school, parent’s rights and responsibilities, marriage, guns and weapons, contracts, and voting. Stay connected to our weekly blog to learn more information about these and other legal topics!