When you are planning your relocation to London, there is no way that you’re intending on breaking any laws while you’re in the UK. There are subtle difference between the laws in the UK and the US that may bear thinking about. Despite everybody’s best intention, mistakes can and do happen and every country states that ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law. Unless you’re a diplomat and can wangle your way out of a parking ticket, you may want to have an understanding of the differences in laws and the legal system when you’re moving to London.

Legal System UK vs. US

The biggest similarity of the two legal systems is that they are both made up of distinct legal and geographical areas. The UK is divided into England and Wales, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the US has 50 individual states each with their own state laws and legal systems.

The biggest difference in the legal system is that in the US, the courts have the final say in lawmaking, whereas in the UK it is parliament.

In London, a lawyer is either a barrister or a solicitor. A barrister will represent you in court and a solicitor will help prepare the case. It should be noted that a solicitor is a full lawyer, just not able to present a case in the higher courts.

Keeping within the Law

Most countries have the same basic common laws with a few subtle differences in interpretation. One law in England that is quite different to the US is the age at which you are legally allowed to consume alcohol. In the US, in most states the legal age is 21, while in the UK it is 18. Good news! Some laws, especially the libel laws are completely different in the UK, and if you’re intent on suing someone, you have to have a pot of money and time to burn in the UK.

The rules of arrest, if you are ever charged with a criminal offense, are very similar. You do NOT have to say anything and you have the right to a solicitor immediately. Your relocation to London as a foreigner means that you also have the right to contact your embassy immediately in any legal situation.