Essentially, the goal of eminent domain laws is simply to say that there are times, even in the United States, where the individual may have to sacrifice something for the greater good. This law allows the government to take private land for use in various public projects.

One of the most common examples is taking farmland to build or expand a highway. It may be impossible for the public road to go anywhere else or, even if it is possible, it may be unnecessarily expensive to circumnavigate that public property. To avoid this drain on taxes and to ensure that the roads are safe and efficient, the government will force the sale of the land.

This is legal under the Fifth Amendment, but that does not mean you have no rights and the government can simply take your land whenever they want. The law also states that they must provide you with appropriate financial compensation — or “just compensation” — to pay you for that land. You may not have a choice in whether you sell the land to the government. However, this is still a sale, not a seizure. You must be compensated.

As you can imagine, this is often a second point of contention, after the initial announcement that the government seeks to take the land. What if the proposed compensation does not seem just and fair to you? It may seem as if your land is essentially being stolen and in return, you are receiving a mere token payment. If this happens, you need to understand the legal options you have.