Color Of Law Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Color Of Law, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Color Of Law?

The act of pretending or appearing legally correct or within the legal rights, whereas such rights does not exist. A police officer or law enforcement officer going beyond his/her powers to perform an act which legally is not his right, can be prosecuted for such misleadings.

History and Meaning of Color Of Law

The term "color of law" refers to the act of a person who is acting under the authority of the law, but who is not actually authorized to act in the manner in which they are acting. In other words, it is a situation in which a person is giving the appearance of acting within the law, when in fact they are not.

The term "color of law" has its origins in the Civil Rights Act of 1871. This law was passed in response to the widespread abuse of power by law enforcement officers during the Reconstruction era. The law was specifically designed to prohibit law enforcement officers from using their power to violate the constitutional rights of citizens.

Examples of Color Of Law

  • A police officer stops a person on the street and searches them without probable cause or a warrant. This is an example of color of law, as the officer is not authorized to perform the search.
  • A prison guard physically abuses a prisoner. This is an example of color of law, as the guard is using their authority to violate the prisoner's constitutional rights.
  • A government official refuses to provide services to a person based on their race or religion. This is an example of color of law, as the official is using their authority to discriminate against the person.

Legal Terms Similar to Color Of Law

  • Abuse of power: The misuse of authority by a person who holds a position of power, such as a law enforcement officer or a government official.
  • Police brutality: The use of excessive force by law enforcement officers, which can violate a person's constitutional rights.
  • Discrimination: The act of treating a person unfairly or differently based on their race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristic.