The ‘color of law’ is a term used to refer to the government allowing public officials to work as a law enforcement agent. A violation of this act is punishable under the Title 18 in the US Code.  This article serves to explain this term, along with a few other examples.

These examples are marked under; the Law of the USA, Advertisement, Pending issues and the meaning of the Color of law. In the year 2012, the FBI dealt with a range of caseloads and 42% of them were concerning issues concerning the Color of Law. The article has referred to Color of Law many times, but what exactly does it mean? Without having a background in law it is impossible to fully understand it.  To understand the meaning of the term, you need to know the reason the term exists.

To govern a successful government successfully you need to have a successful legislation system. It provides a framework and structure for a countries principles and constitutional ideals. Public offices are tasked with effectively implementation these laws, and they are provided with enough authority to do so. This authority can be abused and so there are provisions to uphold and protect a citizen’s rights.

Color of Law’s Meaning

It is the authority given to a person by the government; whether it is local, federal or state.   It can also refer to a semblance of legal right that may not even exist.

‘Color of law’ refers to the authority exercised by a public official, as they are tasked with ensuring justice is served and the law is enforced.

A Citizen’s Legal Right

An official’s actions may appear to be an exercise of his legal right, however this is not always a case. While the public views a public officials actions as being legal. An example of a complication in this matter is the actions of a police officer. They can arrest an individual but they have to have a valid cause. If they arrest, or even detain an individual without probable law they will be acting in violation of the law.  In a case like this the color of law is simply a semblance of legal right, it does not actually exist.

According to the 1871 Civil Right’s Act, the color of law is a synonym of an action of the State; and is therefore considered to be an action carried out by an official, for the government.
There are several officials who act under the color of law; these include police offers, judges, prison guards, care providers and all others who act as public officials.

Rights Being Deprived Under The Color Of Law

Under section 242, of the US Code title 18, it is a crime for people to act under the color of law in any way that will deprive a citizen of their rights or privileges; which are protected by the US constitution or their laws. The act covers action carried out by officials, within or outside of their authority.

Violation Of The Color Of Law

All officials have certain authority including arresting an individual, using a search warrant to stop and search them, or seizing their belongings. There are cases where officials misuse their power, and they are therefore abusing the color of law.   Cases like these are commonly investigated by the FBI.

Scott Woods is the author of this article. He refers to experts found at to help people understand the importance of the color of law.