The government can most certainly use eminent domain whenever it requires the use of someone’s personal property for public use. However, the better question is, “When does the government typically use eminent domain?” Remember, the government must only exercise eminent domain when the taking is for public use and just compensation is given for that taking.
Most scenarios typically involve the government exercising eminent domain in the context of general public use. In other words, the public use requirement is evident by the nature of the project itself. For example, taking for a public highway would naturally be for public use since the public would be able to use that highway for commerce and travel. Some of the more common instances where eminent domain is exercised include building a school, highway, greenway, park, water lines, natural gas lines, and hospitals.
The process involves the government first determining that the project is necessary for whatever reason beyond that of “public use.” This is typically done in the legislature. However, once the project is deemed necessary, the government must follow certain procedures to adequately exercise the right to take the property. The government is normally required to make an offer for the property in order to avoid any legal battles in court. However, if an agreement with the government cannot be reached, the government may exercise the right of eminent domain by filing a condemnation suit in the court where the property is located.
In any event, the government is required by law to provide property owners with notice of their intent to condemn the property at least 30 days BEFORE filing an action in court. This does not apply to all takings. However, it generally does.