A privilege is a certain entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. Land-titles and taxi medallions are pronounced examples of transferable privilege. These can be revoked in certain circumstances. In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth. By contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth. Various examples of old common law privilege still exist, to title deeds, for example. Etymologically, a privilege (privilegium) means a "private law", or rule relating to a specific individual or institution.
One of the objectives of the French Revolution was the abolition of privilege. This meant the removal of separate laws for different social classes (nobility, clergy, and ordinary people), instead subjecting everyone to the same common law. Privileges were abolished by the National Constituent Assembly on August 4, 1789.
Protection from subpoena
One common legal privilege in the United States and Commonwealth countries is protection from the requirement to testify or provide documents in certain situations (see privilege (evidence)). This is granted to people based on a professional or personal relationship (such as being the lawyer, doctor, or spouse of the accused) and not based on circumstances of birth.
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- Suzanna McNichol, The Law of Privilege (1st ed., 1992)