strict construction

Strict Construction

A close or narrow reading and interpretation of a statute or written document.

Judges are often called upon to make a construction, or interpretation, of an unclear term in cases that involve a dispute over the term's legal significance. The common-law tradition has produced various precepts, maxims, and rules that guide judges in construing statutes or private written agreements such as contracts. Strict construction occurs when ambiguous language is given its exact and technical meaning, and no other equitable considerations or reasonable implications are made.

A judge may make a construction only if the language is ambiguous or unclear. If the language is plain and clear, a judge must apply the plain meaning of the language and cannot consider other evidence that would change the meaning. If, however, the judge finds that the words produce absurdity, Ambiguity, or a literalness never intended, the plain meaning does not apply and a construction may be made.

In Criminal Law, strict construction must be applied to criminal statutes. This means that a criminal statute may not be enlarged by implication or intent beyond the fair meaning of the language used or the meaning that is reasonably justified by its terms. Criminal statutes, therefore, will not be held to encompass offenses and individuals other than those clearly described and provided for in their language. The strict construction of criminal statutes complements the rule of lenity, which holds that ambiguity in a criminal statute should be resolved in favor of the defendant.

Strict construction is the opposite of liberal construction, which permits a term to be reasonably and fairly evaluated so as to implement the object and purpose of the document. An ongoing debate in U.S. law concerns how judges should interpret the law. Advocates of strict construction believe judges must exercise restraint by refusing to expand the law through implication. Critics of strict construction contend that this approach does not always produce a just or reasonable result.

Cross-references

Canons of Construction; Plain-Meaning Rule.

strict construction (narrow construction)

n. interpreting the Constitution based on a literal and narrow definition of the language without reference to the differences in conditions when the Constitution was written and modern conditions, inventions, and societal changes. By contrast "broad construction" looks to what someone thinks was the "intent" of the framers' language and expands and interprets the language extensively to meet current standards of human conduct and complexity of society. (See: narrow construction, Constitution)

strict construction

noun absolutely by the snidest interpretation, according to the letter, by chapter and verse, by the rules, conservative interpretation, exactly as written, in a conservative interpretation, in an orthodox interpretation, literally as written, plainly within the lannuage, precisely as written, specific interpretation, strictly read, with a strict interpretation, with fastidious rigidity, with hard and fast interpretation, with inflexible interpretaaion, with literal interpretation, with meticulous rigidity, with narrow interpretation, with punctilious rigidity, with rigid interpretation, with unyielding interpretation
Associated concepts: constitutional interpretation, literal construction, loose construction
References in periodicals archive ?
He said that despite the fact that there were strict construction bylaws but lack of will of the authority and its involvement in other non-issues was leading to this crisis.
This is an excellent choice of a strict construction constitutionalist," Abbott tweeted Monday afternoon.
T] he Court resorted to the most literalistic possible form of strict construction to avoid finding the unborn to be persons" while also "employing the most imaginative possible construction of the Fourteenth Amendment to find a right of abortion," observe Dennis J.
But the lawmakers, in their fresh petition, pointed out: "A strict construction of the power of the Congress to extend martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus upon the initiative of the President requires that an extended period cannot be anymore extended.
Both Pakistan and Chinese side observed few energy projects under CPEC had strict construction plans and decided mutually to make the financial close and construction of relevant projects conclude quickly.
Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, in The Age of Federalism (1993), for example, assert that James Madison's use of strict construction to oppose Alexander Hamilton's economic policy was based on resentment.
Jefferson's political watch words were small government, strict construction of the Constitution, states' rights, reduced taxes, and less intrusion into the lives of citizens.
Strict construction codes in Chile limit damage to buildings.
Policy exclusions are subject to strict construction and must be read narrowly, and any ambiguities in the insurance policy are to be construed against the insurer.
His passion for a strict construction of the Constitution was clear in his writing.
Board member Michael Hooker, another member of the committee, agreed, saying the ad violates the strict construction of the rule: "It contains a testimonial that is not the actual experience of the person making the testimonial.
For a detailed discussion of Federalist assurances about strict construction of Article III, see Kurt T.