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What Is Color of Law?

There exist instances when an individual may act under the pretense of acting under the law. However, this may not be the case. Thus, when it is discovered that an individual has been merely using the law in order to commit an action, he or she is said to have colored the law. Thus, the color of law refers to these instances and usually infers an abuse of legal authority.

Color of law refers to the many instances of using law or the appearance of legal power in activities that may actually be in opposition to the law, therefore a violation of the law. The most essential reference of the color of law is that of any official law enforcement activity. However, this reference can take on a negative connotation when law enforcement officials make use of their authority to abuse their position. For example, a police officer may make an arrest without any probable cause. When this occurs, the police officer has violated the law by abusing the authority given to him and the rights of the person he or she has arrested. Thus, the police officer is said to have acted under the color of law.

The United States Supreme Court has clearly defined what constitutes a color of law. It has been stated that any government agency or official who willfully deprives or conspires to deprive any entity of his or her rights by using the authority given to them, such an agency or officer is guilty of color of law.

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