Police Power

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Police Power

The authority conferred upon the states by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and which the states delegate to their political subdivisions to enact measures to preserve and protect the safety, health, Welfare, and morals of the community.

Police power describes the basic right of governments to make laws and regulations for the benefit of their communities. Under the system of government in the United States, only states have the right to make laws based on their police power. The lawmaking power of the federal government is limited to the specific grants of power found in the Constitution.

The right of states to make laws governing safety, health, welfare, and morals is derived from the Tenth Amendment, which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." State legislatures exercise their police power by enacting statutes, and they also delegate much of their police power to counties, cities, towns, villages, and large boroughs within the state.

Police power does not specifically refer to the right of state and local government to create police forces, although the police power does include that right. Police power is also used as the basis for enacting a variety of substantive laws in such areas as Zoning, land use, fire and Building Codes, gambling, discrimination, parking, crime, licensing of professionals, liquor, motor vehicles, bicycles, nuisances, schooling, and sanitation.

If a law enacted pursuant to the police power does not promote the health, safety, or welfare of the community, it is likely to be an unconstitutional deprivation of life, liberty, or property. The most common challenge to a statute enacted pursuant to the police power is that it constitutes a taking. A taking occurs when the government deprives a person of property or directly interferes with or substantially disturbs a person's use and enjoyment of his or her property.

The case of Mahony v. Township of Hampton, 539 Pa. 193, 651 A.2d 525 (1994) illustrates how a state or local jurisdiction can exceed its police power. Mahony involved a zoning ordinance enacted by the township of Hampton in Pennsylvania. The ordinance prohibited a private party from operating a gas well in a residential district but allowed the operation of such wells by the government. Jack D. Mahony, a landowner who operated a gas well, objected to the ordinance, arguing that the disparate treatment of public and private operation of gas wells was Arbitrary and not justified by any concerns related to the police power. Mahony noted that the State Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) already regulated all gas wells in the state and that there was no factual basis for distinguishing between public and private wells.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania agreed with Mahony that the regulation by the DER was sufficient to secure the safety of the community. The court opined that if the township wished to further ensure gas well safety, it could require the posting of a bond with the township before granting a license to operate the well. Such a measure would ensure that the gas well was being operated by a financially secure person who would have the resources to keep the well in good repair. The court held that the total ban on private operation of gas wells in residential districts was unreasonable and that it bore no real and substantial relation to the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Therefore, the ordinance was an invalid exercise of the police power.


Eminent Domain; Land-Use Control; States' Rights.

References in periodicals archive ?
Our constitutional system is based on such principles, and in our system, police powers are a local responsibility.
10) Thus, the officers were acting in execution of their duties and Knowlton had committed the offence, (11) Following this case, the scope of the Waterfield test remained somewhat limited and constrained until 11 years later, when the Supreme Court would use the Waterfield test in a manner that justified police power in the absence of a charge against an accused of impeding an officer's execution of his or her duties.
narrowly than the police power is conceived in all other legal contexts.
Wagner's foundational analytic gesture, which defines blackness "not as a common culture but instead as a species of statelessness," leads him to focus each of his four chapters on one or two representative engagements in which an avatar of Hurston's "man furthest down," his mobility and self-possession heavily conditioned by the police power of the segregated South, comes into productive contact with a freely-ranging interlocutor who gets hold of his story, his song--but also, inevitably, gets it wrong.
Using police powers in this instance does neither and is, I believe, a breach of a citizens' human rights.
The Court unanimously held that it could, since no legislature had the authority to limit the future exercise of its own police powers.
The effectiveness of exercising the power of eminent domain relies primarily on the government, whereas the success of a jurisdiction exercising police power relies on the market.
The petition accused the police of violence, alleging that this was a misuse of police power.
He explores how the states increased police power, muddled what seem to be obvious current distinctions in sexual acts, stripped the accused of basic constitutional protections, expanded institutional populations, and practiced new treatments such as shock-therapy, psychosurgery, and psychotropic drugs.
It appears clear to this court that the goals of the statute constitute a legitimate exercise of the police power by the state and Burbank, which has not been pre-empted by any federal laws or regulations,'' West wrote.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, expressed approval for the Bush administration's plan, saying that the law "has to be amended, but we're not talking about general police power.

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