Eminent domain is the process by which the government can take private property and put it to other uses. A common example is when an interstate is being run through a town and someone’s home is in the path of the roadway. The government may take the home in order to clear it and extend the interstate.
Understanding the Fifth Amendment
Those who contest that this process shouldn’t be legal may point to the Fifth Amendment, which does say that the government cannot take private property for public use. The colonists who wrote the Constitution were leaving a monarchy where the government could largely do as it pleased, and they were attempting to leave that mindset behind as they gave more power to private landowners.
The reason that eminent domain is legal is that the Fifth Amendment actually says that the government should not take private property “without just compensation.” If the homeowner is compensated based on the current market conditions, this amendment is not breached.
As you can see, then, it is less about restricting the government’s ability to take whatever land they want and more about preventing direct theft of that land. The government does have to pay for the land when they acquire it, and the price needs to be fair.
Investigating your rights
If you’re worried about losing your property due to eminent domain, it can be stressful and you may never have been through this before. It is important to have an experienced law firm on your side as you start looking into your rights and legal options.