Operation and Effect

A municipal ordinance has the force of law over the community in which it is adopted and operates as effectively as a law passed by the legislature within the corporate limits.  If both the ordinance and a state law exist that cover the same act and same offense, the offender can not be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense under the ordinance and under the state law.  In such cases, s/he can only be punished for a violation of the state law[i].  However, a subsequent municipal ordinance that covers the subject matter of a prior ordinance repeals or amends the prior ordinance[ii].

It is to be noted that an ordinance passed by a governing body of municipal corporations have no extraterritorial force, unless specially provided by the empowering statute for particular purposes.  However, they operate with all the force and effect of statutes both against residents and nonresidents within the municipality and also against the property of nonresidents situated within the corporate limits of the city[iii].

Generally, if no specific time is provided by a charter, statute, or ordinance for the taking of effect of ordinances, they become effective immediately after passage.  However, an ordinance will not take effect immediately after its passage if it is otherwise provided by a statute, municipal charter, or ordinance regarding the date of taking of effect[iv]

It is to be noted that a municipal ordinance is not applicable to a state and it cannot be enforced against officers of such a state if the same will affect the performance of their public duties.  An ordinance or a statute is not fatally defective because questions may arise as to its applicability, or opinions may differ as to what falls within its terms, or because it is difficult to enforce[v].  However, the operation or effectiveness of an ordinance is terminated by the repeal of the statute under the authority which it was enacted.

The general presumption is that all statutes or ordinances are to be given prospective application unless the manifest intention of the enacting body was to the contrary.  It is well settled that a statute will not be given a retrospective operation, unless its words are so clear, strong, and imperative in their retrospective expression that no other meaning can be attached to them, or unless the manifest intention of the legislature cannot be met otherwise[vi].

Similarly, a statute or ordinance which interferes with antecedent rights will not be given retrospective application unless the ordinance expresses such intent in unequivocal and inflexible terms[vii].  However, the validity of an ordinance is not affected by a resolution.  An ordinance is amended, repealed, or suspended only by an ordinance[viii].

[i] Jenkins v. Jones, 209 Ga. 758 (Ga. 1953).

[ii] Justus v. Lowell, 32 Va. Cir. 32 (Va. Cir. Ct. 1993).

[iii] Shows v. Dallas, 172 S.W. 1137 (Tex. Civ. App. 1915).

[iv] Community Natural Gas Co. v. Northern Texas Utilities Co., 13 S.W.2d 184 (Tex. Civ. App. 1928).

[v] Portsmouth v. Citizens Trust Co., 216 Va. 695 (Va. 1976).

[vi] State Tax Com. v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 182 Md. 111 (Md. 1943).

[vii] Maroney v. City of Malvern, 320 Ark. 671 (Ark. 1995).

[viii] Meyer v. Seifert, 216 Ark. 293 (Ark. 1949).


Inside Operation and Effect