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Frank refers to the authority given to individuals or officials to send official mail related to their position without charge. Franking “privileges” have been around for many centuries in English commonwealth nations. In the United States, franking privileges mostly refer to members of Congress who have had franking privileges off and on since the first session of Congress in 1789. Congressional members needed franking to be able to communicate with constituents, but after some members abused the privilege to gain election advantages, the House and Senate each limited the mailing privileges to “official business” and limited the overall amount of mass mailing. Presently, members can spend only as much on mailing as allowed by an “official mail allowance” set for each office to account for the amount of constituents served. 

Other franking privileges have been given to officials such as former presidents and the vice president. Sometimes during war time, franking privileges have been bestowed upon soldiers to communicate with family members. 

Frank also refers to a hearing or motion in a criminal case used to challenge a police officer having probable cause to conduct a search and seizure. If the motion is successful, any evidence acquired during the illegal search will be struck from the record. For more information on probable cause, click here.

[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]