If the US president commits murder during his vacation as an unofficial action during his presidential term, can he be charged with a crime in court (i.e., in the judiciary branch) before he steps down as a president?

  • 2
    I answered the question you were really asking, but of course, literally speaking, a U.S. President can be charged with any crime that a prosecutor at any level signs his or her name to. The real question you were asking, of course, is whether a U.S. President has legal immunity to criminal charges for such a crime.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


Yes. The absence of immunity for a U.S. President's unofficial acts was established both in the Nixon Administration and later in the Clinton Administration.

In practice, a prosecutor would be loath to file such charges absent very, very solid probable cause, and a court would often be very deferential in accommodating the President's schedule and, for example, in allowing appearances by telephone when allowed by law, or by electing not to seize the President's passport as a bail condition to be free pending trial, as would be common for someone facing felony charges pending trial.

But, ultimately, the President does not have the right to either defer the charges until the completion of his term, or to any immunity from charges for his or her unofficial acts.

  • I'm not sure how the Nixon and Clinton cases establish this, since in both cases, the plan was to impeach the sitting president and remove them from office before proceeding with criminal prosecution (of course, in the event it didn't get that far). There is also the Justice Department interpretation that a sitting president cannot be indicted. So I'm not sure how any of this fits with your contention that the president could be charged and tried during their term. Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 19:10
  • That's interesting since an ambassador under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is afforded personal immunity to and/or to their staff even beyond their official capacity as long as they are in the receiving country.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 20:29
  • @NateEldredge The issues of Presidential immunity was addressed in the context of Nixon (subpoena on information) and Clinton (civil suit was alleged perjury by a sitting President), in opinions that held that Presidential immunity civil or criminal does not extend to unofficial acts. The impeachment threat in Nixon's case and the impeachment in Clinton's case aren't what I am referring to.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 20:29

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