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Expressions of Limitation in California Statutes

These expressions of limitation are similar to provisos

By Chris Micheli, October 18, 2022 6:25 am

If a provision of law is limited in its application, or is subject to an exception or a condition, then the provision of law contains an “expression of limitation.” In these cases, it is recommended that the sentence begin with the limitation, exception, or condition, or with some sort of expression that calls attention to any limitation that follows.

In addition, bill drafters are generally urged to use the word “if” to begin the sentence, rather than using the words “when” or “where.” But that is not always the case, although California Codes and their statutes are being updated as bills amend those code sections.

These expressions of limitation are similar to provisos. Bill drafters are recommended to use provisos only for taking special cases out of a general enactment and providing specially for them.

The following are examples of these expressions of limitation found in existing law, including the Penal Code (from which these two examples are taken):

 If the defendant is found mentally competent, the criminal process shall resume, …

When the evidence is concluded, unless the case is submitted without final argument, the defense shall make its final argument …

Not only can expressions of limitation appear in a statute, but also an expression of limitation can be found in a “plus section” of the bill. The following is an example:

If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made …

Expressions of limitation and provisos play an important part in California lawmaking generally and in statutes specifically. 

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