Having the government take your property is enough to make anyone angry. After all, it’s land that you paid for. Or, in many cases, it has been handed down through decades, passing from one generation to the next.
Unfortunately, it can, and it does happen. However, knowing the requirements for eminent domain can help ensure the practice isn’t abused.
The Fifth Amendment
The U.S. Constitution and its amendments protect our liberties and rights. It also defines the powers and limits of the government. The Fifth Amendment outlines our protections within the legal system, such as the double jeopardy clause preventing an individual from being tried twice for the same crime and a person’s right to remain silent and not self-incriminate.
However, a small portion discusses taking someone’s private property, also known as eminent domain. For the government to exercise eminent domain, specific requirements must be met:
- The property being taken must be for public use.
- The government must provide “just compensation” to the owner.
- The entity claiming eminent domain must be legally authorized to do so.
Before the government can seize the land, they must give the property owner adequate notice and an opportunity to object.
One issue with eminent domain is the question of what constitutes “public use,” which is open to broad interpretation and, thus, to controversy and legal challenges. It can include things like roads, schools or parks. But it can also refer to economic development projects that may benefit the public indirectly.
It is possible to challenge an eminent domain action, such as taking your land, if it isn’t necessary for the stated public use or if the compensation offered is far below market value.
While fighting the government may be daunting, it isn’t impossible. It’s vital that you discuss your situation with someone who can review your case and options.