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gan_naire
04-18-2011, 07:23 PM
I knew I should've paid more attention in my government class, but I'm wondering, are there local laws, like for just certain counties in the state, or is there just state and federal laws?

If there are local laws, who is in charge of making them up, getting them enforced, etc. If there's just state and no local laws, then who makes those and is responsible for making sure they're enforced, etc.

I know the police are the ones who actually make sure it's all enforced in the public, but I'm talking about more on a once they're caught type of situation.

suki
04-18-2011, 07:44 PM
gan naire,

This is one of those areas I think you need to research. Basic civics in the US is a broad topic - Federal, State and local laws are all made by different elected bodies. And those bodies have different levels of authority and reach (ie, the local goverment for a locality generally can't contradict state law, but it might be able to be more restrictive than what state law requires, etc.).

While wikipedia is not the end all be all for sure, it might be a good place to start - look up federalism, state law, and local law.

Also, know that specific localities gain their authority to make local ordinances (local laws) in different ways - it will matter if it is a county or a city or a town in some states.

So, do the general research, but then zero in on where your story is set and figure out what specifically the locality is, and then what it's governing body is called, and how they derive their power.

A good school text book on civics might be a good place to start - check your local library.

~suki

The Grift
04-18-2011, 07:52 PM
The absolute simplest answer with many caveats and exceptions is that federal legislature makes federal laws, state legislature makes state laws, and county, city, and local laws are made by various legislative bodies at those levels.

This is one of those questions where specifics would help.

Williebee
04-18-2011, 07:56 PM
As Grift indicated, some specifics are going to make this easier on you.

As in: What law(s)? And in what state(s)?

Example: There is a state ordinance in Illinois against smoking in restaurants and bars. In some states where there isn't a state law, there is a local ordinance in some counties/cities.

One thing you can do, is look up the website of the communities you are specifically interested in, and see if they have laws/ordinances posted online.

Good luck!

Sarpedon
04-18-2011, 08:12 PM
I believe that local laws are generally called 'ordinances' and made within the framework of the state laws. There is in general less freedom for local governments to make ordinances than there is between different states versus the federal government. Most local ordinances concern land use, littering, speed limits, rules for local businesses and so forth. For example, you won't find local ordinances mandating differing penalties for various crimes, unless it's a simple fine or something like that. All criminal law is determined on the state or federal level.

Cities of course will have an elected council, which may be called by various names.

The powers of counties vary state by state. I used to live in Maryland, where the counties are very powerful. This impacted my life because whenever I had to deal with any motor vehicle related issue, I had to go to my county's single DMV and basically spend a day there.

In Minnesota, where I live presently, the county is not particularly relevant to most citizens, but does manage a variety of under-the- hood type services; Railroads, utilities, health services, jails, etc.

Counties will have an elected council too, usually called a 'commission,' and the person in charge is called the 'county commissionner.' I jokingly refer to the commissioner as 'the Count.'

Note that Lousiana calls its counties 'parishes' and Alaska calls them 'bouroughs.'

The Grift
04-18-2011, 08:19 PM
Oh Louisiana and their parishes... the way that state runs their government and laws is worlds apart from almost any other state or place in the union. It has to do with the fact that much of their law is based on French law rather than the English Common Law we know and love in the rest of the States.

gan_naire
04-20-2011, 09:52 PM
Sorry I've been a while in replying, I've been trying to work on a query letter for my finished book. Thanks for all the replies, and you'd never know that at one point I was studying criminal justice in college haha. I got out of it through a hatred for actually learning about it all. But somehow I forgot quite a bit of it all.

The examples of the laws I would be interested in would be felonies really. Like sexual assault, child sexual assault, drug related issues where it doesn't involve high trafficing or anything like that that I'm sure would become a federal issue. I'll definately check out the library for random books and I'll probably check out wikipedia first just for fun.

suki
04-20-2011, 10:28 PM
Sorry I've been a while in replying, I've been trying to work on a query letter for my finished book. Thanks for all the replies, and you'd never know that at one point I was studying criminal justice in college haha. I got out of it through a hatred for actually learning about it all. But somehow I forgot quite a bit of it all.

The examples of the laws I would be interested in would be felonies really. Like sexual assault, child sexual assault, drug related issues where it doesn't involve high trafficing or anything like that that I'm sure would become a federal issue. I'll definately check out the library for random books and I'll probably check out wikipedia first just for fun.

Most all of these will be state laws, with the exception that in some states, first offense simple possession of drugs/drug paraphenalia may not be a state criminal offense, but a local ordinance violation.

But, again, you need to figure out where your story takes place and research that specific state's laws. Most all criminal statutes will be state law made by the state legislature.


~suki