Bright-line rule

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A bright-line rule (or bright-line test) is a clearly defined rule or standard, generally used in law, 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. This is in contrast to its opposite, the fine line.

Bright-line rules are usually standards established by courts in legal precedent or by legislatures in statutory provisions. Bright-line rules are often contrasted with balancing tests, where a result is dependent on weighing several factors, which could lead to inconsistent application of law or reduce objectivity.


Debate in the US

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 Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, have expressed a strong preference for bright-line rules, critics often argue that bright-line rules are over-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]

Example of a bright-line rule

Notable cases containing bright-line rules


  1. ^ Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 125, 126 S. Ct. 1515, 1529, 164 L. Ed. 2d 208, 229 (2006) (Breyer, J., concurring).
  2. ^ Statutory Rape Laws by State
  3. ^ Amir H. Ali, Following the Bright-Line of Michigan v. Summers, 45 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 483 (2010)

External links