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What is the difference between a law and an executive order?

On Behalf of | Jan 1, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

The recent election highlighted the roles of both the federal and state governments. These roles can be confusing, particularly in relation to legal matters. Most people in Michigan have heard of executive orders, issued by the President or the Governor, depending on the circumstances. However, there are often questions about what these executive orders mean as far as their legal standing. Are they the same as a law? Here is a brief overview on the differences between a law and an executive order.

What is an executive order?

An executive order is issued by either the President of the United States or the Governor of a state. From the President, the orders concern operation of the federal government. Governors often use them in matters related to public health. An executive order has the force of law, meaning there could be consequences for violating it. Issuing an executive order is also typically much faster than passing a law.

What is a law?

A law requires Congressional approval before finalization, at both the state and federal level. Laws can be repealed by Congress, which is not the case with an executive order. However, if Congress wishes to overturn an executive order, it can be accomplished in an indirect way, for example, by cutting off the funding for enforcing the order. To officially eliminate an executive order, a President or Governor would have to create a new order with that aim.

How are the two similar?

As noted above, both executive orders and laws may carry a punishment for violation. They are also both extensively documented and officially recorded. In the case of Presidential executive orders and federal laws, both of them fall under the Code of Federal Regulation, which is the official record of all federal rules and regulations.

Despite the differences, someone who stands accused of violating an executive order has the same legal rights as those who are charged with violating a law. An accused person in Michigan has the right to consult a criminal defense attorney for legal advice. It is important that that person has adequate representation to ensure fair treatment from the courts.


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