Civil rights claims under § 1983 require that the defendant acted “under color of law.”  While this is often a simple determination, some scenarios—like off-duty officers—can pose a more intensive analysis.  The experienced civil rights attorneys at Miller Law Group can help you avoid potential pitfalls in this area of civil rights law.

In the more cut and dry cases, the defendant’s status as a government employee is enough to satisfy § 1983’s under color of law requirement.  This is true even when the defendant commits an illegal or prohibited act that serves no governmental purpose.

A more interesting scenario arises if the defendant was an off-duty officer.  In this case, the analysis becomes more fact intensive.  Several factors will influence whether a court will find that the defendant was acting under color of law.  Here are a few factors to consider:

– The defendant identified himself as an officer

– The defendant exercised some official authority, like placing someone under arrest

– The defendant was in uniform or displayed a badge

– The defendant used government issued property, like a police car or firearm

These are just some factors that a court might consider.  Also, many jurisdictions have a local law or regulation that states police officers are always on duty, which can be a significant factor.

While establishing that the defendant acted under color of law may be clear cut, some cases require significant analysis and litigation.  If you or a loved one suffered a civil rights violation, contact Miller Law Group today for a free consultation or call us at (919) 348-4361.

Additional Resources: 

Municipality Liability in Civil Rights Cases

What is the difference between absolute and qualified immunity?

State Sovereign Immunity and Civil Rights Law