Definition of by-law
By-law (sometimes also spelled bylaw, by law or byelaw) can refer to a law of local or limited application passed under the authority of a higher law specifying what things may be regulated by the by-law. It can also refer to the internal rules of a company or organization.
In the context of local laws, "by-law" is more frequently used in this context in Canada, the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth countries, whereas in the United States, the words code, ordinance or regulation are more frequent. Accordingly, a bylaw enforcement officer is the Canadian equivalent of the American Code Enforcement Officer or Municipal Regulations Enforcement Officer.
Municipal by-laws are public regulatory laws which apply in a certain area. The main difference between a by-law and a law passed by a national/federal or regional/state body is that a bylaw is a made by a non-sovereign body, which derives its authority from another governing body, and can only be made on a limited range of matters. A local council or municipal government gets its power to pass laws through a law of the national or regional government which specifies what things the town or city may regulate through bylaws. It is therefore a form of delegated legislation.
Within its jurisdiction and specific to those areas mandated by the higher body, a municipal by-law is no different than any other law of the land, and can be enforced with penalties, challenged in court and must comply with other laws of the land, such as the country's constitution. Municipal bylaws are often enforceable through the public justice system, and offenders can be charged with a criminal offence for breach of a bylaw. Common bylaws include vehicle parking and stopping regulations, animal control, building and construction, licensing, noise, zoning and business regulation, and management of public recreation areas.
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