What City Am I In?

What City Am I In? (Local Laws in the United States)

It might sound like a dumb question to some people, but it can be difficult to figure out what official city or “municipality” you are in. For example, if you live in Queens, New York, or Studio City, California, your city and municipality would be New York City, or the City of Los Angeles, respectively. That is, Queens is a borough within New York City, and Studio City is a neighborhood within the city of Los Angeles.

A municipality is essentially the local government that has “jurisdiction” to make and enforce local laws. This is also called a “municipal corporation.” Depending on the state, a municipality can be an incorporated city, town, township, borough, or even village, although the particular term is not as important as whether or not it has the power to make local laws.

However, many locations in the country are not within any city or municipality at all. If you are in an “unincorporated area,” your “jurisdiction” or local government is usually your county. An unincorporated area may also be referred to as “a Census designated place” (CDP), which is a designation by the U.S. Census Bureau for census purposes only, and has no legal status or effect.

So, to determine what your local government is:

  • If you are within a municipality, your local government is the municipality.
  • If you are not within a municipality, your local government is usually the county.

For your specific local government, see below for What is My City.

Why does it matter what jurisdiction I’m in?

Each jurisdiction makes its own laws (called “ordinances” or “municipal laws” or simply “local laws” or more simply “local laws,” “city laws” or “county laws”) on certain issues, such as parking, noise, alcohol consumption, etc. The state may also make laws on these, but usually the local laws will override the state laws. See more about Legal Basics.

Whichever jurisdiction you are physically located in at any particular moment will determine which ordinances apply. These local laws are usually called the “municipal code” or “administrative code,” or sometimes “code of ordinances.” (For example, the New York City Administrative Code, the Los Angeles City Municipal Code, or the Houston Code of Ordinances).

So how do I find out what jurisdiction I’m in?

You might think something so important as your local government would be easy to determine. But not so much. Even Google maps will not necessarily give you this information.

We created a “What is My City” feature to find your jurisdiction for any location in the country, and it will also help you find your local laws. Unfortunately, the platform we were using has changed their pricing so we had to shut it down for now. Stay tuned for updates.

In the meantime, check with your county or state government for more information.


Share the Legal Info With Your Friends: