take the law into one's own hands

To protect one's supposed rights or punish a suspected wrongdoer without reference to a court. — An overused expression.
When the men of the settlement caught the suspected murderer, they took the law into their own hands and hanged him to a tree.
His farm was going to be sold for taxes, but he took the law into his own hands and drove the sheriff away with a shotgun.
Categories: {v. phr.}