What Is the Purpose of Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain is the inherent right of the government to take private property that is owned by a private citizen and convert it to public use. The primary purpose for eminent domain is the “public use.” Typically, this entails taking property, usually land, in order to build roads, bridges, and public utilities. Without the ability to take private property, the government would essentially be powerless to facilitate commerce which is required by the “Commerce Clause” of the United States Constitution. The main use of eminent domain throughout American history was to create better means of transportation for all American citizens through roadways, waterways, docks, ports, and railways. However, what constitutes public use in recent years has been altered slightly by the courts.

The public use must be apparent at the time of the taking and not hypothetical. The public use requirement is one of the Constitutional limits placed on the government’s power to exercise eminent domain. Our founding fathers understood the importance of allowing eminent domain, but also understood the importance of protecting the right to own property as well. The takings clause limited when the government could take private property and placed an additional stipulation for when they took property-the doctrine of “just compensation.” However, public use has been expanded in recent years to include economic development as well.

Therefore, public use is no longer limited to possession or direct enjoyment of what used to be private property. Instead, it is more accurately defined as the taking of private property by the government in such a way that is advantageous to the general community. The government considers the taking as advantageous to the public even if the land is subsequently given to a private entity. The crux that allows the government to give the land to a private entity is the presence of a general public advantage from the conveyance.

Although the “public use” requirement has been expanded in recent years, the main purpose of eminent domain is for the public benefit. If you have been impacted by eminent domain, then you should call an eminent domain attorney immediately to see if your property is being taken for a proper public use.

Our firm focuses on three practice areas: Disability, Personal Injury, and Eminent Domain. Every practice area has attorneys who have expertise in their respective area of practice. 

Chad Brown is a North Carolina Board Certified Social Security disability law specialist. Mr. Brown helps Social Security disability claimants at all stages of the disability process. He also works with people that have Long Term Disability denials and with people that are injured by drugs and defective medical products.

Your Questions Answered

Can Eminent Domain Take Your House?

The question assumes that eminent domain is a person or entity that can do something. Eminent domain is a tool, not an entity or person. It is analogous to a specific type of wrench that allows a mechanic to perform a specific task. The idea that the government may...

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Can Eminent Domain Be Used for Private Use?

Although to some it might seem inherently wrong for the government to take a private citizen’s property and give it to a private entity, that can indeed happen. The United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. New London, a landmark Supreme Court case in 2005, established...

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Can Eminent Domain be Stopped?

When challenging an action for eminent domain, the property owner generally has two avenues. The two avenues that can be used to stop or challenge a taking are found in the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. First, the property owner can challenge the...

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