chapter  2
6 Pages

Principle 2: Void for Vagueness

ByBrian W. Blaesser, Clyde W. Forrest, Douglas W. Kmiec, Daniel R. Mandelker, Alan C. Weinstein, Norman Williams

The void for vagueness doctrine is derived from the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; specifically, the procedural due process requirement of notice. A regulation can be attacked on its face as a violation of the due process clause under the void for vagueness doctrine. The void for vagueness doctrine has been used by both the federal courts and the state courts as a buffer of added protection against the threat to individual freedoms posed by arbitrary and discriminatory legislative action. It is the opportunity for arbitrary action, not the arbitrary act itself that makes an ordinance vulnerable to attack on vagueness grounds. In the land use context, the vagueness doctrine means that zoning and other types of ordinances must be clear and precise, particularly as to their provisions for enforcement. The doctrine concerns the lack of clarity or certainty in the language of a regulation.