eminent domain

noun
Updated on: 26 Jul 2017

Definition of eminent domain

  1. :  a right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction

Examples of eminent domain in a Sentence

  1. The state took the homes by eminent domain to build the new road.

First Known Use of eminent domain

1783


Financial Definition of EMINENT DOMAIN

eminent domain

What It Is

Eminent domain is a legal strategy that allows a federal or local government to seize private property for public use. The seizing authority must pay fair market value for the property seized.

How It Works

Let's say John Doe lives in a house on one acre next to Highway 47. The state wants to widen the road due to the higher traffic and the new casino that was built down the road. In order to widen the road, the state needs the space on either side of the road.

Because the state deems the road necessary, it seizes John's property and gives him $250,000 for it. John does not have the opportunity to say no, though he can challenge whether the $250,000 is fair market value.

The police power of local and federal governments generally is what gives them the authority to seize property for public use. The fifth and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution permit the government to exercise its power of eminent domain and requires "just compensation" for seized property.

In some cases, the property owner starts the eminent domain proceedings. This is called inverse condemnation, and property owners typically apply it when a government has used a property without just compensation (typically, this happens when the government has polluted the property).

Why It Matters

Eminent domain is a controversial topic. Though taking property may be necessary for the public good (particularly in the case of health and safety), it is sometimes difficult to forcibly separate a person from his or her property. Additionally, there is considerable question regarding whether implementing additional heavy regulations on a particular property is effectively the same as seizing the property because it significantly reduces the owner's "use and enjoyment" of the property, and thus entitles the owner to just compensation. Last, there is considerable controversy about what constitutes valid public use. For instance, some courts have allowed cities to clear bad-looking neighborhoods simply to beautify the town. Others have allowed governments to seize property and give it to businesses that build factories or other job-creating facilities on the property.


EMINENT DOMAIN Defined for English Language Learners

eminent domain

noun

Definition of eminent domain for English Language Learners

  • law : a right of a government to take private property for public use


Law Dictionary

eminent domain

noun em·i·nent do·main \ˈe-mə-nənt-\

Legal Definition of eminent domain

  1. :  the right of the government to take property from a private owner for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of its sovereignty over all lands within its jurisdiction — see also condemn, expropriate, take 1b

Additional Notes on eminent domain

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to compensate the owner of property taken by eminent domain, stating “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” State constitutions contain similar provisions requiring that the property owner receive just compensation for the property taken.


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