When should you challenge overbreadth of statutes in New York?

| Jul 19, 2021 | blog, Federal Crimes

The overbreadth doctrine – commonly shortened to overbreadth – is the rule that a regulation of speech can be too broad, imposing on protected speech. This is related to vagueness, which is where the rule is too vague for a person to figure out what’s permissible and not.

If someone is challenging a statute on the basis of overbreadth in New York, it means you’re challenging a law because it challenges a right that’s protected by another law. For example, a statute cannot prevent you from protesting since that’s a right that’s granted to you by the first amendment.

Why are overbroad regulations put into place?

Regulations that are purposefully broad and can be interpreted in many ways are oftentimes purposefully put into place by the government. In some cases, it’s hoped that the broad ruling will be interpreted literally and restrict communication.

Sometimes, a statute is put into overly broad terms to prevent getting too far into jargon. The overbreadth doctrine says that in order to challenge a statute, two conditions must be met:

  • The statute must actually be breaching upon another given right
  • The rights that the statute infringe upon must be actually protected and not implied

Basically, there must be intent behind a statute to limit free speech. Not only that, but the right to free speech or otherwise must actually be protected.

For example, if it is a law’s intent to impose upon free speech and they cannot clarify another reason or stipulation to the statute, then that would fall under overbreadth. Alternatively, if the right to free speech or otherwise isn’t granted in the first place – like saying certain things in a place of business or law – then overbreadth doesn’t apply.

What if I’m challenging overbreadth claims?

Overbreadth claims don’t pop up as much as they used to based on how hard it is to prove. However, if you have questions about overbreadth relating to a certain statute or if you’re looking to challenge claims of overbreadth, contact a lawyer today to see your options.

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