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What if there is a clash between the spirit of law and the letter of law and my actions only abide by the spirit of law but not the letter of law?Is there a chance that I might go to jail?

  • Court gets to decide the "spirit of the law", not ordinary citizen. – Consis Jun 30 at 4:08
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Yes, there is a good chance. Ordinarily, the law as written is what is enforced. On occasion, the wording of the law is actually ambiguous, or vague, which means that the jury will need an instruction as to how to interpret the law. In fact, juries are not literally read the statute, they are given a set of decision-making instructions so that they can decide "If we find X, we must acquit; if we find Y we may convict". Your attorney will, if he is diligent, note the problem and strive for an instruction that favors the client. (The prosecution will of course object). Eventually, on appeal, a court will decide what the law "really means", and that decision might be strictly based on the letter of the law, or it might be based on a supposed spirit of the law, i.e. what the legislature "originally intended". That outcome is determined in part by the jurisprudential ideology of the prevailing justices of the appeals court. Usually, letter of the law prevails until a higher court rules that a particular "spirit" is what was originally intended.

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