Thursday, November 12, 2015

MBE Fast Fact: First Amendment: Overbroad vs. Void for Vagueness

I've stated on this blog in the past that the First Amendment is an important topic to know well when studying Constitutional Law. The terms "overbroad" and "void for vagueness" have similarities that make them very testable as small differences can materially distinguish one answer on the exam from another.

A statute is overbroad if the statute proscribes activities that may be constitutionally forbidden but in doing so also sweeps within its coverage speech that is protected by the First Amendment. A law limiting First Amendment rights must be crafted to limit only those rights not protected by the Constitution. If not crafted as such then it might well be overbroad and therefore unconstitutional.

In contrast, a statute may be void for vagueness if the conduct forbidden is so unclearly defined that people would have to guess at its meaning and would differ as to its application. Oftentimes if a question is testing the concept of vagueness a specific term within a law will be provided, but that term will not be defined. By not defining that term its meaning is left ambiguous and ambiguity leaves open the possibility that people will define the term differently thereby limiting their ability to correctly apply the law. If a reader of a statute is left to guess the meaning of a material term within a statute, consider whether that statute is void for vagueness.

No comments:

Post a Comment