Vagueness doctrine

Definition

1) A constitutional rule that requires criminal laws to state explicitly and definitely what conduct is punishable.  Criminal laws that violate this requirement are said to be void for vagueness.  Vagueness doctrine rests on the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.  By requiring fair notice of what is punishable and what is not, vagueness doctrine also helps prevent arbitrary enforcement of the laws.

2) Under vagueness doctrine, a statute is also void for vagueness if a legislature's delegation of authority to judges and/or administrators is so extensive that it would lead to arbitrary prosecutions.

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. Skilling v. United States, 130 S.Ct. 2896 (2010).

See also

  • [wex:Vague]

  • [wex:Criminal procedure]

  • [wex:Civil procedure]