General Question

YARNLADY's avatar

What happens when local law conflicts with Federal law?

Asked by YARNLADY (44976points) October 8th, 2010

One example is happening on the U.S./Mexican border. Local law states that fences cannot exceed 10 feet in height, but the Federal Government is building fences on private property over 20 feet high.

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11 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

What happens? Usually a lawsuit in Federal court if there is a conflict. But generally Federal law trumps local law.

perspicacious's avatar

Federal law with trump local and state law—it’s called The Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution..

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Feds first, all other laws are only interesting. The federal laws are always first in line; state and local regulations come later.

iamthemob's avatar

There are exceptions, however…federal law preempts state law if it actively is meant to on the face of the law or if it occupies the entire area of the law.

In the case you’re talking about, it’s more like ordinances at battle. I don’t think that the feds would be stopped here.

Nullo's avatar

It is worth noting that any rights not afforded the Federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the States or the People.

Sub-question: Missouri law says that the inside of my car is akin to the inside of my house, certainly with respect to what I can keep in it (firearms, for instance, if I am so inclined), and to the degree that a warrant (or permission, I suppose) is required in order for law enforcement personnel to enter or search the vehicle.
Would this not protect me from, say, the FBI, or the USDA or IRS stormtroopers?

iamthemob's avatar


Nope. Not necessarily. That is interesting though…because the U.S. Constitution provides a baseline, and the states are allowed to provide MORE rights and protections. Cases generally involve the reverse – state intrusion which is said to be a violation of this baseline.

However, the federal enforcement agencies more than likely have rules set foreward as to probable cause, etc., for their investigations. These would have to control, considering that federal investigative capabilities would be drastically hampered if they had to alter everything from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

But good point – I hadn’t really thought about that.

john65pennington's avatar

Federal law always comes first, especially when it comes to National Security. this is a disclaimer that the Federal Government uses quite often, when they need to achieve something, without the courts interference and in a hurry.

matt2001's avatar

this is a jurisdiction question. Fed law doesn’t trump State unless they have jurisdiction. And no, Fed doesn’t have jurisdiction everywhere – or are not supposed to.

Lilyred's avatar

State law can add to federal law, but it cannot take away from. So, if the states law carries greater requirments, then state trumps. If state law carries lesser requiremtn, Federal trumps.

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