Draft refers to an unfinalized document, which can arise in numerous contexts in the legal field. Often, contracts, motions, briefs, and pieces of legislation go through numerous drafts before agreeing upon a finalized document. While the finalized document remains the official legal document, draft documents can become important. For one, a draft document often sets the tone for what the finalized document looks like. For example, in contracts, parties frequently prefer being the party that writes the initial draft as it can sway negotiation.
Draft documents also can be used in court in some circumstances. While reluctant to do so, courts can at times look to a draft document to help clarify ambiguity in the final document. Because the draft document is not the legally binding document, courts do not like relying on them, but in some cases, the differences between the draft and finalized document can be helpful. Courts can also use drafts of legislation to clarify the meaning of a law, but courts are even more reluctant to look at legislation drafts, with some courts refusing to do so.
Selective Service ‘Draft’
The ‘draft’ may refer to the power of Congress to conscript men in the United States into military service. Technically, every male citizen must register for the Selective Service System within the 30 days prior or 29 days after their 18th birthday, but they can continue to do so until their 26th birthday. After that, they will be ineligible to register for the draft, which is a felony punishable by up to a $250,000 fine and 5 years imprisonment. Also, many federal benefits and jobs require registration, which likely affects over one million men in the United States. For example, immigrants to the United States may be ineligible for citizenship if they do not register for the draft by age 26. The draft applies to every person assigned male at birth. This means transgender women must also register for the draft, but transgender men do not have to do so.
[Last updated in March of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]