Strict scrutiny is the highest level of judicial review used by courts to evaluate the constitutionality of a law or government action. It is used to evaluate laws or government actions that restrict fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and equal protection under the law. Under strict scrutiny, a law or government action will be found constitutional only if it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest.
In order for a law or government action to pass strict scrutiny, it must:
-Serve a compelling government interest
-Be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest
-Be the least restrictive means of achieving that interest
If the law or government action fails to meet any of these criteria, it will be found unconstitutional. This standard of review is considered to be the most difficult for the government to meet, and is reserved for the most important constitutional rights.
Examples of when strict scrutiny applies:
-Laws that discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, or other similar protected classes
-Laws that restrict freedom of speech or freedom of religion
-Laws that restrict the right to bear arms
It is important to note that not all laws are subject to strict scrutiny, and lower levels of review, such as intermediate scrutiny and rational basis review, may apply in some cases.