World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Bright-line rule

Article Id: WHEBN0002123048
Reproduction Date:

Title: Bright-line rule  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Village pump (policy)/Archive 117, Edit warring, Articles for deletion/Joseph L. Price, Egonomics, Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc.
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Bright-line rule

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.

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 its opposite balancing tests (or "fine line testing"), where a result is dependent on weighing several factors, which could lead to inconsistent application of law or reduce objectivity.


  • Debate in the US 1
    • Examples 1.1
  • Notable cases containing bright-line rules 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

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 overly-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.


  • American statutory rape laws, including Romeo and Juliet laws – In most states, if the discrepancy between the age of the victim and the age of the accused is large enough, or if the victim is young enough, then the older participant must be convicted as guilty (assuming that participant did indeed enter into sexual activity with the victim) without any regard to other potentially mitigating circumstances.[2] Because it is a bright-line rule, there is no balancing test to examine factors such as mistake of the accused, the misrepresentation of age by the minor, or the minor's consent to sexual intercourse, though these can all come into consideration in cases where the age of the victim or the age discrepancy do not cross the "bright line". This can also be termed a strict liability offense.
  • In Michigan v. Summers, the Supreme Court announced the bright-line rule that law-enforcement officers have the authority to detain the occupants of a residence while conducting a search for contraband. The rule was intended to provide clear rules to law enforcement personnel and avoid case-by-case analysis. Scholars have challenged the clarity and efficacy of this bright-line rule in practice.[3]

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

  • Language Log Discussion of the phrase, with examples and history
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.