The United States is organized around the establishment and protection of rights and privileges. There have been incidents, however, when individuals and groups have entered into a conspiracy to deprive others of their rights.
When there is political strife the situation sometimes arises where a private individual or group uses force or the color of law to deprive another person of the rights, privileges, or immunities promised by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The laws protecting against these acts are drafted in order to thwart the actions of groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, which operate covertly and attempt to intimidate private citizens in an effort to deprive them of their rights, and to protect against the actions of authorities in support of their intimidation of disadvantaged groups using the law.
The following article provides an overview of the laws prohibiting conspiracies against rights and the use of the color of law to deprive others of their rights.
Conspiracy Against Rights: Definition
Criminal liability arises when two or more people go in disguise on the highways or to another person's premises to seek to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate a person to prevent the free exercise and enjoyment of rights and privileges secured for them by the Constitution and the U.S. laws. These acts are prohibited under 18 U.S. Code, Section 241.
The crime of conspiracy against rights is punishable by fine and imprisonment for up to 10 years. If a death, kidnapping, or sexual abuse occurs (or is attempted) in the commission of this crime it is punishable by a fine, up to life in prison, or death.
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law
In many ways, all of our laws are aimed at the protection of our fundamental rights. However, 18 U.S. Code, Section 242 provides specific federal criminal liability for those who act to deprive the rights of others under color of law.
Color of law is an interesting term. This crime refers to situations in which a person uses the threat of punishment, pain, or legal penalties to deprive a person of their rights. This often means using existing laws for the purpose of threatening a person, on account of being foreign, of a different color, or a different race with exposure to punishments that wouldn't normally be faced by other citizens.
This crime is punishable by a fine and up to a year in prison. If bodily injury occurs or a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire are used in this act the punishment is a fine and up to 10 years in prison. If a death, kidnapping, sexual abuse, or any of these acts are attempted in the course of the crime, the punishment is a fine and up to life in prison, or death.
Example: The Rodney King Prosecutions
In 1991 Rodney Glen King III, an African-American taxi driver, was arrested and beaten severely by a pair of Los Angeles police officers. The beating was caught on tape and resulted in public outrage and rioting. His mistreatment was generally understood to have been motivated by his race.
In the aftermath of the incident the two police officers responsible for the beating were indicted and convicted for depriving King of his right to freedom from the intentional use of unreasonable force by one making an arrest under color of law, as well as the constitutional right to be kept free from harm while in official custody.
Learn More About Conspiracy Against Rights from an Attorney
Conspiracy against rights and color of law prosecutions can be complicated and contentious. If you've been charged with conspiracy against rights, or any other federal crime, it's in your best interests to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in order to plan the strongest defense.