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What Does the Term ‘Construe’ Mean in California Statutes?

It is almost like expressing legislative intent or declaration without using those terms

By Chris Micheli, March 9, 2022 9:53 am

While continuing to read through proposed new laws for the 2022 California Legislative Session, I occasionally come by a bill that uses the term “construed” and it mostly is used in a negative form. The word “construe” basically means to interpret in a particular way. And, in legislation, it is used to describe how language is to be interpreted, or not interpreted in most instances.

The term “construe” is almost exclusively used in the negative form in California statutes. The following are examples of this:

This subdivision shall not be construed to interfere with the clinical judgment of a physician and surgeon.

Nothing in Section 65915 shall be construed to prohibit a city, county, or city and county from requiring …

This section shall not be construed to confer any right or privilege on a person that is conditioned or limited by …

Nothing in this section shall be construed to require any construction, alteration, …

There may be a slight variation in the above standardized language, such as the following example from another bill this year:

Nothing in this section is intended to, nor shall be construed to, entitle …

Of course, there are exceptions to this regular use of the term “construe” in a negative form in California law. In the example below, the term is actually used both in the affirmative and in the negative:

The exclusion of a transaction from the application of this title under subdivision (b) or (c) shall be construed only to exclude the transaction from the application of this title, but shall not be construed to prohibit the transaction from being conducted by electronic means if the transaction may be conducted by electronic means under any other applicable law.

And, sometimes, the term is used simply in the affirmative, such as in the example below:

the requirements of this section shall be construed as acts which the law …

Regardless of whether the term “construe” is used in an affirmative or negative form, the word is used in statutes to help understand or explain the particular way in which statutory language is intended by the Legislature. It is almost like expressing legislative intent or declaration without using those terms.

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