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Having reference to things that happened in the past, prior to the occurrence of the act in question.

A retroactive or retrospective law is one that takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws, creates new obligations, imposes new duties, or attaches a new and different legal effect to transactions or considerations already past. Common-law principles do not favor the retroactive effect of laws in the majority of cases, and canons of legislative construction presume that legislation is not intended as retroactive unless its language expressly makes it retroactive.

Retroactive criminal laws that increase punishment for acts committed prior to their enactments are deemed Ex Post Facto Laws and are unenforceable because they violate Article I, Section 9, Clause 3, and Section 10, Clause 1, of the U.S. Constitution and comparable provisions of state constitutions.


adj. referring to a court's decision or a statute enacted by a legislative body, which would result in an application to past transactions and legal actions. In criminal law, statutes which would increase penalties or make criminal activities which had been previously legal are prohibited by the Constitutional ban on ex post facto laws (Article I, Section 9). Most court decisions which change the elements necessary to prove a crime or the introduction of evidence such as confessions are usually made non-retroactive to prevent a flood of petitions of people convicted under prior rules. Nor can statutes or court decisions take away "vested" property rights or change contract rights. However, some decisions are so fundamental to justice they may have a retroactive effect, depending on the balance on stability of the law balanced against the public good. Retroactive is also called "retrospective." (See: ex post facto)


adjective affecting the past, beginning before, commencing before, effective before, having prior application, having prior effect, operational before, starting before, taking effect before
Associated concepts: ex post facto, retroactive effect
See also: ex post facto
References in periodicals archive ?
Installing the systems retroactively may impose some difficulty, but it is not an impossible task by any means.
In the February 2004 draft legislation, Finance responded to this criticism by "unbundling" some of the provisions from the global election and creating separate elections to apply those provisions retroactively.
The appeals court reversed and remanded, finding that the Act resulted in the imposition of punishment, in violation of the ex post facto clause when the Act was applied retroactively.
Although NHC's filings for every year had been reviewed by auditors for the government's Fiscal Intermediaries as well as NHC's internal auditors, a new cost allocation standard was retroactively required by the government," said NHC President W.
However, most of the states ruled that the Federal retirees were not entitled to recovery of taxes paid in prior years because the Davis decision did not apply retroactively.
Congress approved funding for 6,500 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants for fiscal year 1985, but the Reagan administration has been trying retroactively to pare that number down to 5,000 (SN:2/9/85, p.
For those who qualify but have failed to claim the credit in prior years, they may apply for the EITC retroactively for a period of up to three years, for up to $12,000.
A class-action lawsuit was filed Friday seeking to expand protection of hospitals statewide from the practice of retroactively rescinding insurance policy coverage for numerous patients.
In a recent New York State Division of Tax Appeals decision, the court held that when a taxpayer reasonably relies on the published, written guidance of the Division of Taxation (Division), the Division will be estopped from retroactively changing the rules in a way that will cause an avoidable, detrimental effect on the taxpayer; see In the Matter of the Petition of Robert and Naomi Reiner, State of New York Division of Tax Appeals, Administrative Law Judge Unit, DTA No.
Defenders of the law, which retroactively extended copyright terms by 20 years, argue that if it were overturned as unconstitutional, part of the earlier Copyright Act of 1976--which also extended terms retroactively--might have to go as well, throwing everything published before 1946 into the public domain.
The Taxpayers Bill of Rights limits the IRS's right to modify regulations retroactively for provisions enacted after July 30, 1996.
The FTB will apply this position for all tax years retroactively.