Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Police Power Definition:

A local or regional government's authority to enforce within its limits, laws, ordinances or regulations.

Related Terms: Ordinance

In Cotta v San Fransisco, Justice Haerle of the Court of Appeal of California first quoted from the Constitution of the State of California which, at Article XI, §7 provides the authority to cities and counties to enforce their bylaws, adding:

"Often referred to as the police power, this constitutional authority of counties or cities to adopt local ordinances is the power of sovereignty or power to govern-the inherent reserved power of the state to subject individual rights to reasonable regulation for the general welfare. The police power extends to legislative objectives in furtherance of public peace, safety, morals, health and welfare.

"It is settled that a government entity may not contract away its right to exercise the police power in the future. A contract that purports to do so is invalid as against public policy."

In C and R Stacy v Chisago, Justice Halbrooks of the Court of Appeals of Minnesota adopted these words:

"[M]unicipalities and counties possess extensive and drastic police powers with respect to the care, supervision, and control of streets. The exercise of such powers by municipalities has been upheld and sustained by the courts in a great variety of situations.

"This police power is the ability of the state and its political subdivisions to impose restraints on private rights that are necessary for the general welfare. Use of police power must be within the legitimate concern of the state and not otherwise reserved to the individual. Furthermore, the method of controlling the private right must be reasonably related to a legitimate government end.

"Both the state and its municipalities have a wide discretion in resorting to that police power for the purpose of preserving public health, safety, and morals, or abating public nuisances."

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