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Absolute, Limited & Qualified Rights

The Difference between Absolute, Limited and Qualified Rights

Not all rights are written in the same way. The Bill of Rights uses these terms in defining them.

  • Absolute rights. These rights cannot be limited in any way. They can not be reduced or amended. Examples include the right to protection from slavery or torture.
  • Limited Rights. These rights come with exceptions. An example is the right to liberty, which can be lawfully restricted. Lawful arrest is an example of a limited right.
  • Qualified Rights. Government interference with these rights is allowed in special circumstances, and only when necessary in a democratic society. The interference must fulfill a pressing social need; pursue a legitimate aim; and be proportionate to the aims being pursued. An example is government restrictions on the right to assembly and association, in order to calm a riot.

Last Updated: 2010-08-16