Intra vires is a legal term that indicates that something is within the legal power of a specific entity or jurisdiction. It contrasts with the term ultra vires, which means that something is outside the legal power of an entity or jurisdiction. These terms are sometimes used to indicate whether or not it is legal for the court or law enforcement agency involved in a case to proceed. They can, however, indicate whether an individual or corporation has the right to take an action as well.
When used in a law enforcement setting, intra vires indicates, firstly, that the agency has jurisdiction over the crime or suspect. It also indicates that the agency is legally allowed to take the action it is taking. For example, if a law enforcement agency is allowed to question a suspect, such questioning is intra vires. If the agency cannot question the suspect, perhaps because he is a minor and the law requires that a parent be present for questioning, any questioning would be ultra vires.
In a court setting, the term also refers dually to the jurisdictional right of the court to hear the case and to the court's following of applicable laws. For example, local laws might grant the court, in the person of the judge, the right to determine whether or not specific evidence is admissible. Intra vires can also refer to a court's right to hear a criminal or a civil case.
When used to describe the rights of individuals, intra vires refers to things that the individual is or is not authorized to do. For example, in most cases, an individual is not allowed to restrain another individual against his will. In areas that allow for a citizen's arrest, however, an individual may restrain a criminal fleeing the scene of a crime.
The term can also be used in relation to businesses or organizations. For example, a business might have the right to track and read all electronic communications, including emails, sent from an employee's computer. This right might extend to company-owned laptops, even when the computer is not actually on company property. Individual privacy rights would not apply because the computer is the property of the company rather than the employee.
Intra vires is derived from Latin. The term literally means "within the powers." Though it often is used in legal actions, it can also be used in hiring contracts or other types of employment documents.