Strict Scrutiny Definition

A legal standard used to determine whether a statute, policy, or procedure ("law") is constitutional when the law:

To meet this standard, the government must prove that the law is:

  • motivated by a compelling government interest, such as the protection of human life or safety, and
  • narrowly tailored, meaning that the law achieves the government's compelling interest in the least restrictive way possible.

Most laws that are reviewed using strict scrutiny fail to meet the standard and are declared unconstitutional.

For a good discussion of strict scrutiny, see Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995).

(See also: rational basis, intermediate scrutiny)