Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
sighsigh
Posts: 263
Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:47 pm

Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby sighsigh » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:24 pm

Not a law student or anything, but I was curious and can't find a good answer anywhere.

Is it considered illegal to break a contract? Is there a law out there stating "thou shall not break contracts?" Feel free to define terms or whatever. Thanks.
Last edited by sighsigh on Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
cinephile
Posts: 3469
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:50 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby cinephile » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:27 pm

Are you planning on breaking a contract?

User avatar
ph14
Posts: 3225
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:15 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby ph14 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:28 pm

sighsigh wrote:Not a law student or anything, but I was curious and can't find a good answer anywhere.

Is it considered illegal to break a contract? Is there a law out there stating "thou shall not break contracts?" Feel free to define terms or whatever. Thanks.


Yes, it's actually in the Constitution! It's called the "Contracts Clause" and it's at Art. 1, section 10, cl. 1.

Bobnoxious
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:47 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby Bobnoxious » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:32 pm

ph14 wrote:
sighsigh wrote:Not a law student or anything, but I was curious and can't find a good answer anywhere.

Is it considered illegal to break a contract? Is there a law out there stating "thou shall not break contracts?" Feel free to define terms or whatever. Thanks.


Yes, it's actually in the Constitution! It's called the "Contracts Clause" and it's at Art. 1, section 10, cl. 1.


Riiight! LOL

User avatar
ph14
Posts: 3225
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:15 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby ph14 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:32 pm

Bobnoxious wrote:
ph14 wrote:
sighsigh wrote:Not a law student or anything, but I was curious and can't find a good answer anywhere.

Is it considered illegal to break a contract? Is there a law out there stating "thou shall not break contracts?" Feel free to define terms or whatever. Thanks.


Yes, it's actually in the Constitution! It's called the "Contracts Clause" and it's at Art. 1, section 10, cl. 1.


Riiight! LOL


I know what i'm talking about. I got an A+ in my con law class!

Bobnoxious
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:47 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby Bobnoxious » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:36 pm

OP...breach of contract all by itself isn't enough to rise to the level of a criminal act, such as larceny, so unless there are other elements that make the breach criminal it will remain a civil issue.

User avatar
danquayle
Posts: 1108
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:12 am

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby danquayle » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:39 pm

Bobnoxious wrote:OP...breach of contract all by itself isn't enough to rise to the level of a criminal act, such as larceny, so unless there are other elements that make the breach criminal it will remain a civil issue.


I layman's terms: no, contracts are private agreements between two parties. It is not "illegal." Where the law does come into play is in enforceability. If you breach a contract, the injured party can seek remedy in a court, which can vary from restitution damages to specific performance of the terms of the contract. Usually, its just damages though.

User avatar
ph14
Posts: 3225
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:15 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby ph14 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:41 pm


User avatar
rinkrat19
Posts: 13918
Joined: Sat Sep 25, 2010 5:35 am

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby rinkrat19 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:41 pm

You could look this up in wikipedia yourself; no need to ask a law student.

You can break a contract and not, like, get arrested. It's not a crime. Sometimes it's actually better for both parties (efficient breach). If breaking the contract isn't best for both parties, then there are rules defining different remedies to even things back up. Stuff like making the other person pay for goods or perform a function after all, or pay what something would have been worth, or pay someone back for the money they spent depending on the assumption that they'd be getting the contract fulfilled.

Bobnoxious
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:47 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby Bobnoxious » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:49 pm

OP - It is worth the effort to study and learn the ancient and powerful art of Google-fu, as some recent posters have so aptly demonstrated.

sighsigh
Posts: 263
Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:47 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby sighsigh » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:59 pm

Doesn't the term illegal apply beyond criminal law?

I get the idea behind efficient breach in that it's less costly to break the contract and suffer penalties then to go through with the contract, so many people do just that. But that doesn't imply breaking a contract is legal. It may be less costly for me to jaywalk and pay a penalty than wait for the lights but that doesn't mean jaywalking is legal.

... doesn't the act of breaking a law imply a value judgement? Answer me this: is there an actual law that says "Do not commit murder"? Or does the law just go "if commit murder => X penalty."

Thanks for helping a newb out. ^_^

(Yeah I did do the obligatory Google searching for quite a while, but was not satisfied. That's why I came here. And I did mention this fact in my OP.)
Last edited by sighsigh on Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
LeDique
Posts: 12772
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:10 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby LeDique » Fri Jan 25, 2013 8:59 pm

Why do I feel like this is part of your undergrad homework?

Bobnoxious
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:47 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby Bobnoxious » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:00 pm

LeDique wrote:Why do I feel like this is part of your undergrad homework?


+1

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8448
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:03 pm

De minimis non curat lex.

Bobnoxious
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:47 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby Bobnoxious » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:04 pm

sighsigh wrote:(Yeah I did do the obligatory Google searching for quite a while, but was not satisfied. That's why I came here. And I did mention this fact in my OP.)


Yes, you did a search, but the skill with which you performed the search appears to have been far below what would have been used by even a young student in the mystical art of Google-fu. Go, find a master and learn, grasshopper.

cynthiad
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:16 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby cynthiad » Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:14 pm

sighsigh wrote:Doesn't the term illegal apply beyond criminal law?

I get the idea behind efficient breach in that it's less costly to break the contract and suffer penalties then to go through with the contract, so many people do just that. But that doesn't imply breaking a contract is legal. It may be less costly for me to jaywalk and pay a penalty than wait for the lights but that doesn't mean jaywalking is legal.

... doesn't the act of breaking a law imply a value judgement? Answer me this: is there an actual law that says "Do not commit murder"? Or does the law just go "if commit murder => X penalty."

Thanks for helping a newb out. ^_^

(Yeah I did do the obligatory Google searching for quite a while, but was not satisfied. That's why I came here. And I did mention this fact in my OP.)


There are laws that say murder is a criminal offense. They don't just specify a penalty, they define what kind of crime it is (depending on what degree etc). Same with other crimes.

User avatar
5ky
Posts: 6392
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2009 4:10 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby 5ky » Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:14 am

ph14 wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient_breach


Image

User avatar
Tom Joad
Posts: 4542
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 5:56 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby Tom Joad » Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:55 am

5ky wrote:
ph14 wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient_breach


Image

180

Myself
Posts: 1372
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:36 pm

.

Postby Myself » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:27 am

.
Last edited by Myself on Sun Nov 24, 2013 11:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MinEMorris
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:26 am

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby MinEMorris » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:53 am

that Posner comic.. I don't even know what to say.

Doesn't the term illegal apply beyond criminal law?

I get the idea behind efficient breach in that it's less costly to break the contract and suffer penalties then to go through with the contract, so many people do just that. But that doesn't imply breaking a contract is legal. It may be less costly for me to jaywalk and pay a penalty than wait for the lights but that doesn't mean jaywalking is legal.

... doesn't the act of breaking a law imply a value judgement? Answer me this: is there an actual law that says "Do not commit murder"? Or does the law just go "if commit murder => X penalty."

Thanks for helping a newb out. ^_^

(Yeah I did do the obligatory Google searching for quite a while, but was not satisfied. That's why I came here. And I did mention this fact in my OP.)


I don't think the term "breaking the law" is supposed to have any deep significance. If you ignore the nature of the penalties involved and who is enforcing them (i.e. the police/prosecutors rather than the other party to the contract, in your example) then the significance of the difference between criminal and civil liability mostly vanishes. Heck, at the point that you wipe those factors, the difference between the law and some social norms disappears.

In common parlance, though, I think "breaking the law" usually refers specifically to criminal laws, or laws that can be enforced by police officers and that are typically punishable by deprivation of liberty. I don't think it's a very precise phrase; I imagine it came about through casual use rather than someone carefully crafting a gap-filler for our conceptualization of the law.

edit: one thing I owe you thanks for, OP, is that Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law" is a lot more amusing if you think of it as a song about breaching a contract.
Last edited by MinEMorris on Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bobnoxious
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:47 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby Bobnoxious » Sat Jan 26, 2013 5:12 am

ajax adonis wrote:If you're interested in unpacking terms, I think there are much more interesting ones to ponder. To give a classic example, what in the hell do we possibly mean by "free will?" If our decisions are "caused" then doesn't that mean that they're predetermined? Even if we deem them causeless, can we imagine such a thing as a causeless occurrence that isn't simply random? Can we make sense out of a middle ground that matches our intuition about how free will works? And so begins the march through thousands of years of thought.. If these are the sorts of inquiries that interest you, law probably isn't what you want to do.


<chuckle> Show-off. UG = Philosophy or Political Science?

User avatar
LeDique
Posts: 12772
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:10 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby LeDique » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:59 am

Bobnoxious wrote:
ajax adonis wrote:If you're interested in unpacking terms, I think there are much more interesting ones to ponder. To give a classic example, what in the hell do we possibly mean by "free will?" If our decisions are "caused" then doesn't that mean that they're predetermined? Even if we deem them causeless, can we imagine such a thing as a causeless occurrence that isn't simply random? Can we make sense out of a middle ground that matches our intuition about how free will works? And so begins the march through thousands of years of thought.. If these are the sorts of inquiries that interest you, law probably isn't what you want to do.


<chuckle> Show-off. UG = Philosophy or Political Science?

Don't encourage it.

MinEMorris
Posts: 228
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 12:26 am

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby MinEMorris » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:43 pm

Bobnoxious wrote:<chuckle> Show-off. UG = Philosophy or Political Science?


I didn't mean to come off like that but I admit that when I reread my own message even I thought it came off as a little random and obnoxious. Edited. I was trying to think of a good example for OP of other terms that we use to distinguish between things that don't have very meaningful differences between them, and my mind ended up on a tangent where I ended up thinking about the term free will and I went with it. Not a philosophy or poly sci major, though I took a couple of classes in both subjects, so I had some exposure to topics like this. Though I think they're interesting, my experience of them is shallow. Which is probably why comic books have probably given deeper treatment to free will than I was able to give in my intro. Anyway, sorry for the aside.

ninereal
Posts: 85
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: Is breaking a contract breaking a law?

Postby ninereal » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:29 am

5ky wrote:
ph14 wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficient_breach


Image


this is the greatest thing I've ever seen




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: ididntwantsalmon, OldArmy and 8 guests