What Is a Constitutional Provision?

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A constitution is the foundational law in most countries, including the United States. The term "constitutional provision" specifies that a rule or law comes from the constitution itself and not from statutory or common law.

What Having a Constitution Means

Countries draft a constitution to establish the most basic vital rights, restrictions and organizations in society. Constitutional provisions – the rules that a are set out in a constitution – establish broad notions of what is legal and what is illegal in a country, and they establish the structure of government. Constitutional provisions cover such topics as the rights and responsibilities of the president or governor, legislature and the court system. They also define the balance between state and federal governments.

Constitution Cannot be Altered by the Courts

An important point about constitutional provisions is they cannot be altered or amended by legislatures or by the courts. The only way to amend a constitutional provision is to follow the procedures set out in the constitution itself, such as state ratification. Every amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for example, has been ratified by two-thirds of the House and Senate, then affirmed by three-fourths of the states in a vote. The purpose of making it difficult to amend a constitution is to ensure that the constitution remains a relatively static document that protects fundamental and inalienable rights.

Rights of the Constitution

Constitutional provisions also establish fundamental rights in society. For example, the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, establishes such fundamental rights as freedom of speech, press and religion, the right to a trial by jury, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection against cruel and unusual punishment and the right to bear arms. Later amendments abolished slavery and gave women the vote. The rights are important, not only because they guarantee certain civil rights and freedoms, but also because they can be enforced by the people against the government. They stop the government from exercising arbitrary power over its citizens.

Enforcement of Constitutional Provisions

The U.S. Congress can pass laws that are consistent with constitutional provisions, but ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court is charged with interpreting and enforcing constitutional provisions. The Supreme Court's authority even includes the power to declare Congressional acts unconstitutional.



About the Author

The Constitution Guru has worked as a writer and editor for "BYU Law Review" and "BYU Journal of Public Law." He is an experienced attorney with a law degree and a B.A. degree in history with an emphasis on U.S. Constitutional history, both earned at Brigham Young University.