Color (law)

In U.S. law, the term color of denotes the “mere semblance of legal right”, the “pretense or appearance of” right; hence, an action done under color of law colors (adjusts) the law to the circumstance, yet said apparently legal action contravenes the law.[1]

Contents

Color of law

Color of law refers to an appearance of legal power to act but which may operate in violation of law. For example, though a police officer acts with the "color of law" authority to arrest someone, if such an arrest is made without probable cause the arrest may actually be in violation of law. In other words, just because something is done with the "color of law", that does not mean that the action was lawful. When police act outside their lawful authority and violate the civil rights of a citizen, the FBI is tasked with investigating. [2]

The Supreme Court has interpreted the United States Constitution to construct laws regulating the actions of the law enforcement community. Under "color of law", it is a crime for one or more persons using power given to him or her by a governmental agency (local, state or federal), to willfully deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Enforcement of "color of law" does not require that any racial, religious, or other discriminatory motive existed. Criminal acts under color of law include acts within and beyond the bounds or limits of lawful authority. Off-duty conduct may also be covered if official status is asserted in some manner. Color of law may include forced vaccinations for school aged children under threat of expulsion or placing the child's parents under arrest where no law exists to do so. Color of law may include public officials and non-governmental employees who are not law enforcement officers such as judges, prosecutors, and private security guards.[3] Furthermore, in many states it is unlawful to falsely impersonate a police officer, a federal officer or employee, or any other public official or to use equipment used by law enforcement officers, such as flashing lights or a fake police badge. "Possession of a firearm also can enhance the penalty for false impersonation of a police officer."[4]

Color of office

Color of office refers to an act usually committed by a public official under the appearance of authority, but which exceeds such authority. An serving as act committed under color of office is sometimes required to prove malfeasance in office.

Color of title

In property law, color of title refers to a claim to title which appears valid, but may be legally defective. Color of title may arise when there is evidence, such as a writing, suggesting valid legal title. The courts have ruled that deeds are mere color of title; the actual title to land is secured with an irrefutable instrument like a land patent, then when that land is subsequently conveyed to another owner by a deed, the deed colors the title to show the new owner. Thus, the chain of title from the land patent to the present may include many deeds, the actual title remains with the land patent and lawful deeds show the chain of title to the present landowner. Because the ownership in land is a very specific thing requiring precise and proper transfers of ownership, in times past, people always required a certified abstract be provided with a deed to insure the deed was not merely a color of title fiction. Today, title companies offer title insurance to secure such documents. Still, only a proper and lawful title, like the land patent, provides actual title to land; and, only a proper and lawful chain of title (deeds, etc.) from such a patent to the present can secure land rights to the landowner.

However, even with land secured by patent, the proper grant of title can be implied by adverse possession, which is the basis for claims exemplified in Torrens title. The Torrens system operates on the principle of "title by registration", in which the act of registering an interest in land in a state-operated registry creates an indefeasible title in the registrant, which, like the land patent, can be challenged only in very limited circumstances.

Appropriation of name or likeness

Although this is a common-law tort, most states have enacted statutes that prohibit the use of a person’s name or image if used without consent for the commercial benefit of another person. A person's exclusive rights to control his or her name and likeness to prevent others from exploiting personal information without permission is protected in similar manner to a title or trademark action with the person's likeness and personal information, rather than the trademark or title, being the subject of the protection.[5]

The tort of false light involves a misappropriation or "major misrepresentation" of a person's "character, history, activities or belief."[6] Some bodies of law also explicitly mention the estate of a person; false claims of nobility are most common. In the United States, one who gives publicity to a matter concerning another that places the other before the public in a false light is subject to liability for invasion of privacy, if:

  1. The false light would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; and
  2. The actor acted with malice—had reason to know of or acted with reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed.

See Section 652E of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.

Public disclosure of private facts arises where one person reveals information which is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person.[7]

References

  1. ^ Law Dictionary Fourth Edition, Steven H. Gifis, p. 86
  2. ^ Color of Law, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  3. ^ Hate Crimes. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Division, February 22, 2005. Via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Impersonating a Police Officer, LegalMatch
  5. ^ Invasion of Privacy, Appropriation of Name or Likeness. CSE/ISE 334 "Introduction to Multimedia Systems" Lectures and Recitations, Stony Brook University.
  6. ^ Gannett Co., Inc. v. Anderson, 2006 WL 2986459 at 3 (Fla. 1st DCA Oct. 20, 2006).
  7. ^ Common Law Privacy Torts

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • color — col·or n: a legal claim to or appearance of a right or authority threats that gave color to an act of self defense usu. used in the phrase under color of a police officer held liable for violating the plaintiff s civil rights under color of state …   Law dictionary

  • color of law — n. The appearance of legal authority without the substance; something that appears to have the authority of law but in fact does not. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. 2008.… …   Law dictionary

  • color of title — 1: an apparent but invalid title based upon a written instrument or record; also: the instrument itself 2: an apparent ownership claimed by adverse possession Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • law — / lȯ/ n [Old English lagu, of Scandinavian origin] 1: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority: as a: a command or provision enacted by a legislature see also statute 1 b:… …   Law dictionary

  • color of office — color of of·fice: the pretense or appearance of official authority in one who is without the authority claimed Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. color of office …   Law dictionary

  • color of law — The appearance or semblance, without the substance, of legal right. Misuse of power, possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because wrongdoer is clothed with authority of state, is action taken under color of state law. Atkins v …   Black's law dictionary

  • Color (disambiguation) — For usage of colour in templates and Wikipedia pages, see Wikipedia:Color. Color is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, yellow, white, etc. Color or colour may also refer to: Contents 1 Science …   Wikipedia

  • color of authority — That semblance or presumption of authority sustaining the acts of a public officer which is derived from his apparent title to the office or from a writ or other process in his hands apparently valid and regular. See color of law color of office …   Black's law dictionary

  • color of office — Pretense of official right to do act made by one who has no such right. Kiker v. Pinson, 120 Ga.App. 784, 172 S.E.2d 333, 334. An act under color of office is an act of an officer who claims authority to do the act by reason of his office when… …   Black's law dictionary

  • color of title — The appearance, semblance, or simulacrum of title. Also termed apparent title. Any fact, extraneous to the act or mere will of the claimant, which has the appearance, on its face, of supporting his claim of a present title to land, but which, for …   Black's law dictionary


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