Ballotpedia survey shows no state constitution or administrative procedure act requires agencies to prove rule violators acted knowingly before imposing penalties

A Ballotpedia survey of all 50 state constitutions and administrative procedure acts (APAs) revealed that no state constitutions or APAs require agencies to prove rule violators acted knowingly before imposing penalties after adjudication. Without those requirements, state agencies may be able to order people and businesses to pay fines for breaking rules without proving whether rulebreakers did so knowingly.

Agency adjudication is a quasi-judicial process that takes place in the executive branch of the state government instead of in the judicial branch. Often, the procedural protections associated with adjudication are different from those found in a traditional courtroom setting.

Adjudication proceedings include agency determinations outside of the rulemaking process that aim to resolve disputes between either agencies and private parties or between two private parties. The adjudication process results in the issuance of an adjudicative order, which serves to settle the dispute and, in some cases, may set agency policy.

States traditionally require prosecutors in criminal cases to demonstrate that a defendant committed a crime knowing that the behavior was wrong, often known as mens rea. While traditional in criminal proceedings, this survey examined whether state agencies must also prove that people and businesses committed acts they knew violated regulations before issuing fines and penalties.

Understanding the burden of proof agencies must meet before charging fines and penalties provides insight into procedural rights at the state level. Procedural rights is one of the five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state.

To learn more about Ballotpedia’s survey related to procedural rights, see here:

Want to go further? Learn more about the five pillars of the administrative state here:

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About the author

Jace Lington

Jace Lington is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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