Rational Basis Test Law and Legal Definition

Rational basis test refers to a judicial standard of review that examines whether a legislature had a reasonable and not an arbitrary basis for enacting a particular statute.

The U.S. Supreme Court has articulated the rational basis test for those cases where a plaintiff alleges that the legislature has made an arbitrary or irrational decision. Usually the test is applied when determining cases presenting constitutional due process or equal protection issues related to the Fifth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. In applying the rational basis test, courts begin with a strong presumption that the law or policy under review is valid. The burden of proof is on the party making the challenge to show that the law or policy is unconstitutional.

“The rational basis test means that courts will not overturn government action unless the varying treatment of different groups or persons is so unrelated to the achievement of any combination of legitimate purposes that [the court] can only conclude that the [government's] actions were irrational”. [Warren v. City of Athens, 411 F.3d 697, 710 (6th Cir. 2005)]