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.


Canons of Construction; Plain-Meaning Rule.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Fire fighting foams are increasingly being used owing to the strict construction norms in most emerging economies.
When contracting with any company, it is important that there will be a specific time requirement, to ensure that the land is not being held off for resale at a higher price and also to agree on strict construction requirements.
The "rule of lenity" also called for strict construction that resolves doubts in favor of the accused, Herring said.<br />Herring acknowledged it was a different stance from his office's pleadings in the Dellis case.<br />"I have concluded, however, that the position set forth in that brief was incorrect and did not serve the ends of justice.
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." "Otherwise, the intention and mandate of the Constitution limiting the period of martial law and the suspension of the writ and the extension thereof would be breached," the petition further read.
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.
Interior Minister Mario Fernandez said there had been some landslides but "in general the situation is pretty normal bearing in mind the quake's intensity." 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.