Florida “Police Powers”

When I first heard of governments acting under their “police powers,” I couldn’t figure out the use of the word “police;” I thought it must have to do with the power to have a police force. It was many years before I found out why they are called “police” powers. It is from the ancient Greek word “polis,” which means a city/state, like ancient Athens, with an elected representative government. So the “police powers” are the inherent powers of the city/state’s elected government to make laws for its citizens. In the United States, the relevant “polis” is the state, so the “police powers” are the inherent powers of each state to make laws for its citizens.

The police powers are reserved to the states (and are preserved by the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution). The federal government does not have “police powers;” the federal government’s powers are limited to those specifically granted in the United States Constitution. The police powers that counties and cities in the state have are only those that have been delegated by the state.

So each state has police powers. That means that each state has the inherent or basic authority to make laws for the benefit of the citizens of the state. These powers are generally summarized as the power to make laws to protect or promote the general public health, safety, and welfare. Sometimes “morals” is also added to the list.

Those powers are very broad and can be used to create a very large variety of laws. They include the power to have a police force (making my guess about the origins of the term somewhat correct) and, more related to the purposes of this website, include the power to have zoning and land development regulations.

There are, however, limitations on how far the police powers can go in regulating. For more on the limitations, see the separate article on “Limitations on Florida Police Powers.”

So the State of Florida has the authority, through its inherent “police powers” to create laws regulating the use and development of land, as long as those laws fall within the applicable limitations. How Florida cities and counties get their powers to regulate the use and development of land at the local level is discussed in a series of articles under the category “State Enabling Statutes.”

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One response to “Florida “Police Powers”

  1. If a land owner has riparian rights part and parcel of his or her Land Deed what exactly does that protect?

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