Bright-line rule

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A bright-line rule (or bright-line test) is a clearly defined rule or standard in the United States, composed of objective factors, which leaves little or no room for varying interpretation. The purpose of a bright-line rule is to produce predictable and consistent results in its application. The term "bright-line" in this sense generally occurs in a legal context.

Bright-line rules are usually standards established by courts in legal precedent or by legislatures in statutory provisions. The Supreme Court of the United States often contrasts bright-line rules with their opposite: balancing tests (or "fine line testing"), where a result depends on weighing several factors—which could lead to inconsistent application of law or reduce objectivity.

Debate in the US[edit]

In the United States, there is much scholarly legal debate between those favoring bright-line rules and those favoring balancing tests. While some legal scholars, such as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, have expressed a strong preference for bright-line rules, critics often argue that bright-line rules are overly simplistic and can lead to harsh and unjust results. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted that there are circumstances in which the application of bright-line rules would be inappropriate, stating that "no single set of legal rules can ever capture the ever changing complexity of human life."[1] Over the course of the last three decades, many bright-line rules previously established in U.S. jurisprudence have been replaced with balancing tests.[citation needed]

Examples[edit]

Some observers consider the holding in Miranda v. Arizona to constitute a bright-line rule. The majority opinion in that case required law enforcement to advise a criminal suspect of certain rights whenever two conditions were met: 1) the suspect was in custody, and 2) the suspect was about to be interrogated.

Notable cases containing bright-line rules[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 125, 126 S. Ct. 1515, 1529, 164 L. Ed. 2d 208, 229 (2006) (Breyer, J., concurring).

External links[edit]

  • Language Log Discussion of the phrase, with examples and history