Color of Law

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ” ‘color of law’ simply means that the person [judge, prosecutor, or security guard] is using authority given to him or her by a local, state, or federal government agency.” That is, a person acting under color of law is both operating within his purview in order to render his services to the community and taking scrupulous measures to ensure that he is not neglecting essential duties. Color of law prohibits abuses of authority and mandates every effort to respond to emergency situations.

Example Sentence

An official acting under color of law has a sacred responsibility to apply only as much pressure as necessary in fulfilling her peacekeeping duties, taking care not to cause uncalled-for damage to citizens’ persons or property.

Case Study

In a much-publicized case, a police captain in Florida came under fire for color of law abuse on January 18, 2012 when he strip-searched a 15-year-old girl. The girl and a 19-year-old male companion were sitting in a parked car when Officer De Los Rios shone a flashlight through the window and asked if they had been having sex (800.04 of Florida statutes states that a legal adult engaging in sexual contact with an individual between the ages of 12 and 16 is guilty of lewd and lascivious battery, a 2nd-degree felony). When both emphatically denied that they had, De Los Rios insisted upon visual evidence to back their negation. As a result of his flagrant misconduct, the rogue policeman could be fined $10,000 and spend up to 15 years in prison.

Other Important Information

Color of law as it relates to the conduct of the law’s agents is specifically mentioned in Utah code: Both 77-37-5(5)(a) and 77-38-11(1) state that “If a person acting under color of state law willfully or wantonly fails to perform duties so that the rights in this chapter are not provided, an action for injunctive relief may be brought against the individual and the government entity that employs the individual.”

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