A local ordinance is a law usually found in a municipal code.
In the United States, these laws are enforced locally in addition to state law and federal law. In some states, the state legislature has limited the scope of local ordinances. This approach was made popular by John Forrest Dillon called the "Dillon Rule". The law in such states says that local governments could only adopt ordinances when the state gives them authority on particular subjects. States that do not follow the Dillon Rule believe that local government has inherent (unstated) powers of self-government. In those states, local government can make ordinances on any subject not prohibited by the state legislature.
There must generally be a statutory basis for an ordinance, the ordinance must be in compliance with any overlapping statutes (although it may impose a stricter standard or penalty), and the ordinance must be related to the affairs of the local government in question.
Under the Local Autonomy Law, an ordinance may impose a penalty of up to two years imprisonment and/or 1 million yen in fines, although any penalty under an ordinance must be prescribed in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure. There are even some ordinances, such as bans on smoking on the street, for which the police in some districts state that there is no penalty for failure to obey the ordinance.
All laws enacted by the legislature of British colonies are referred to as Ordinances, which sometimes delegate power to other parties (usually government departments) to make subsidiary legislations that supplement the Ordinances. In Hong Kong, all laws enacted by the territory's Legislative Council remain to be known as Ordinances, despite the transfer of the territory to the People's Republic of China in 1997.
- West's Encyclopedia of American Law (2005). "Municipal Corporation". Retrieved 2009-12-14.