Constitutions, which exist at the state and federal levels, have two general functions. First, they set up the structure of government for the political unit they control (a state or the federal government). This involves creating the branches and subdivisions of the government and stating the powers given and denied to each. Through its separation of powers, the U.S. Constitution establishes the Congress and gives it power to make law in certain areas, provides for a chief executive (the president) whose function is to execute or enforce the laws, and helps create a federal judiciary to interpret the laws.


The U.S. Constitution also structures the relationship between the federal government and the states. In the process, it respects the principle of federalism by recognizing the states’ power to make law in certain areas. The second function of constitutions is to prevent other units of government from taking certain actions or passing certain laws. Constitutions do so mainly by prohibiting government action that restricts certain individual rights. The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution is an example. Statutes Statutes are laws created by elected representatives in Congress or a state legislature.



They are stated in an authoritative form in statute books or codes. As you will see, however, their interpretation and application are often difficult.