Idioms based on the Law, crime and punishment. Select an idiom for more details. Also try Law Idioms Quiz.

a law unto themselves

If somebody is a law unto themselves, they do things their own way and follow their own ideas about how to live instead of following what others do.

a slap on the wrist

If someone gives you a slap on the wrist, they give you a mild punishment for making a mistake or doing something wrong.

a vested interest

If you have a vested interest in something, you have a strong personal interest in it because you stand to gain from it.

above board

If something is above board, it's been done in a legal and honest way.

above the law

If someone is above the law, they are not subject to the laws of a society.

beat the rap American English INFORMAL

If someone beats the rap, they avoid being found guilty of a crime.

by the book

If you do something by the book, you do it strictly according to the rules or the official procedures.

caught red-handed

If someone is caught red-handed, they are caught in the act of doing something wrong such as cheating or stealing.

cook the books | cook the accounts

If someone cooks the books, or cooks the accounts, they keep inaccurate accounts for a business, usually in order to pay less tax.

cover your tracks

If you cover your tracks, you make sure no-one can find evidence of what you've done.

face the music

If someone has to face the music, they have to accept the consequences of doing something wrong.

fall from grace

If you fall from grace, you do something that results in a loss of respect and support, especially among those who influence your life or career.

feather your own nest

If you feather your own nest, you use your position or your job illegally for personal gain.

grease someone's palm INFORMAL

If you grease someone's palm, you pay them a bribe.

keep your nose clean

If you keep your nose clean, you stay out of trouble by making sure you don't do anything wrong.

lay down the law

If you lay down the law, you tell people what they should do in a forceful and stern way.

mend your ways

If you mend your ways, you improve your behaviour and stop doing things that cause trouble.

red tape

Strict adherence to rules and regulations so that a procedure seems to take longer than necessary.

the jury is still out

We can say the jury is still out when a decision still hasn't been made about something.

under the table American English

If something is done under the table, it's done secretly, usually because it's illegal or unethical.
Also try Law Idioms Quiz.

Contributor: Matt Errey