Not only does the United States Constitution protect your civil rights, but California’s Constitution and various laws protect your basic civil rights. Not only doe these law protect you from unlawful police misconduct, but they also include protection for your freedome of speech, and discrimination based on your age, gender, religion, race, ethnicity, and disability.
The fundamental civil rights outlined in the Bill of Rights include freedom of speech, religion, privacy, a fair trial, assembly, and unlawful searches and seizures by peace officers. If you believe your civil rights have been violated in some manner, you may be entitled to compensation for the violation of those rights, your damages, including an award for all attorneys fees for needing to enforce your rights.
While many attorneys focus on various rights, a “civil rights attorney” is an attorney that specifically focuses on the protection of people’s constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms. Civil rights attorneys handle a wide range of cases, including unlawful searches and wrongful arrests, as well as unreasonable and excessive force by police officers.
Everyone in the United States is entitled to rights and advantages that aid them in remaining safe, free, and healthy. Unfortunately, these liberties are under constant assault from police officers, hate groups, and people who inexplicably believe it is okay to discriminate against people on the basis of their race, ethnicity, disability, or other similar factors.
How Often Are Civil Rights Violated?
The United States is well-known throughout the world for its strong dedication to civil rights. Despite this, we still have a long way to go. Civil rights abuses continue to happen far too often, despite all of the progress that has been made. No matter who you are, you have the following civil rights:
- If you’re a member of a protected class, you have freedom from discrimination;
- Freedom of speech, religion, and assembly;
- The right to procedural due process;
- The right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures;
- The right to be free from unreasonable use of force and excessive force.
These are just a few of the fundamental rights and liberties that civil rights lawyers work to protect under the United States Constitution and California law. It’s crucial to note that some of these rights can only be enforced against the government, while others apply equally to private persons, corporations, and government parties. For example, a private individual is unable to violate your civil liberties with respect to unreasonable searches or use of excessive force, even if their behavior would constitute a violation of your civil liberties if carried out by police or other government agents. However, California law has similar laws that prevent private persons or corporations from falsely imprisoning you, assault and battery, or negligently using unjustified force. On the other hand, both private parties and government agencies are not entitled to discriminate against you on account of your race, ethnicity, religion, disability, or other minorities or protected class members.
The Story Behind “Qualified Immunity”
The idea for the law dates back to 1871 when Congress established the federal right to sue state and local government officials for violating the Constitution under what’s known as Section 1983.
White vigilantes terrorized newly freed Black Americans in the aftermath of the Civil War, with law enforcement officials doing little to stop them and even participating themselves. Congress wanted to give people the ability to defend their own civil rights and reasoned that federal juries would be more likely to enforce the Constitution. But the Supreme Court initially interpreted Section 1983 quite narrowly, and it basically lay dormant for the next 90 years.
As the Civil Rights Movement accelerated in the 1950s, attorneys began to utilize Section 1983 more frequently. The Supreme Court reinstated Monroe v. Pape, reaffirming that individuals can sue law enforcement officials under Section 1983 for civil rights infractions.
But then, everything changed. The Supreme Court ruled in 1967’s Pierson v. Ray that police officers and other government officials are immune from claims for damages unless they violate clearly established law, which may be found through a reasonable inquiry.
In 1997, the Supreme Court made an important change in the law when it ruled that public officials have qualified immunity unless they knew or should have known that their conduct violated a plaintiff’s constitutional rights. The court added that public officials are immune unless they knew or should have recognized that their behavior was unlawful.
This action replaced the previous “good faith” test with something a bit more “objective.” Nowadays, this test is what analysis courts use when determining if qualified immunity protects an officer from a lawsuit or not.
How Does Qualified Immunity Work?
It’s very important to know that there is a huge difference between qualified and absolute immunity. In other words, there are occasions when a public official can be sued for constitutional infringements in civil court. Basically, qualified immunity is an officer-friendly doctrine that protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who intentionally break the law.”
The Supreme Court established a two-step test to determine whether qualified immunity applies. If both parts of the test are answered in the affirmative, the public official does not qualify for immunity.
- Did the officer violate a Constitutional right?
- Did the officer know that their actions violated a “clearly established right”?
The next step is to establish when a right has been “articulable.” A right is considered clearly established if the Supreme Court or a relevant federal appeals court has previously condemned the behavior, or where public officials’ actions are “obviously unlawful.”
Is this always easy? No. A plaintiff must show that a right is well-defined in order to establish that it has been violated. A victim must show that the Supreme Court or a federal appeals court in the same region previously ruled that precisely the same conduct under similar circumstances was unlawful or unconstitutional. By default, qualified immunity protects officials if no decision exists.
Take, for example, the U.S. Court of Appeals’ recent comment that a prison guard who pepper-sprayed an inmate in his locked cell “for no reason” did not violate a clearly-established right because similar cited cases involved police officers hitting and tasing inmates “for no reason,” rather than pepper-spraying them “for no apparent cause.”
In fact, the Supreme Court instructed in 2009 that lower courts may depart from the first stage of the test at their discretion. Many jurisdictions now do so.
As a result, judges now examine past court cases to see whether there are comparable facts on record that would put the officer on notice that his or her conduct violated another person’s clearly established constitutional or statutory rights. The facts of an allegation of police misconduct in particular situations are extremely significant when qualified immunity is considered.
If you feel your inalienable rights have been violated, it’s time to contact a civil rights attorney. The only way to safeguard and protect these rights we value is to make individuals who violate them accountable in a court of law for their actions. What steps must we take in order to contact a civil rights lawyer and how can they help you?
What Does a Civil Rights Lawyer Do?
A civil rights lawyer works for people who have had their civil rights violated, whether they are U.S. citizens or immigrants living in the United States. They are authorities on the freedoms guaranteed to individuals under our Constitution and may take part in both civil and criminal cases as specialists.
Some examples of civil rights violations are:
- Discrimination in the workplace
- Police brutality and/or excessive force
- Wage violations
- Sexual assault
- Hate crimes
- Violations of labor rights
- Violations in seizures and searches
How Can a Civil Rights Lawyer Help You?
It is the duty of civil rights attorneys to advocate for their clients and seek justice and equality. This includes defending the rights of men, women, and children of all races, religions, colors, or sexual preferences, as well as those who have suffered legal police misconduct.
Civil rights attorneys also represent the parents of special needs students who may have been neglected or abused by school staff, other students, or third parties. If your civil rights were violated in some way, a civil rights attorney may be able to help.
While working on behalf of their clients, civil rights lawyers undertake numerous activities. They do research on how your rights are protected, how those rights might be violated, and ultimately argue to protect those rights in Court or negotiate settlements. They also keep track of changes in local area civil rights laws and regulations to ensure that they stay up to date.
When a person’s rights have been violated, he or she has the right to file a civil lawsuit against the individual or intuition that harmed him or her. This person will almost certainly seek counsel from a civil rights attorney to ensure the finest chance of success in court. But, is it really necessary to contact a civil rights lawyer?
Do I Really Need A Civil Rights Attorney?
If you believe that your civil rights have been violated in some manner, you may want to hire a civil rights attorney. A legal advocate and coach can help you navigate the procedures of obtaining compensation. You may fight back against unfair treatment with the assistance of a competent civil rights attorney.
You may be asking if you need a civil rights attorney or if you can handle the case on your own. Because most individuals are unaware of all of the complex rules that govern civil rights, it is critical to have a legal professional on your side.
You may discover that attempting to sue another person for a civil rights violation does not result in a positive outcome without the assistance of a civil rights lawyer. You might not receive the compensation you deserve, or any compensation at all. It’s difficult to prove that your civil rights have been violated, but an experienced attorney can advise you on your chances of winning your case.
Kirakosian Law and Your Civil Rights
If you believe that you are a victim of a civil rights violation, acquire the guidance of a qualified civil rights attorney. For more information about what a civil rights attorney does or to schedule a consultation to discuss your case, reach out to Kirakosian Law today.
When we detect evidence of malfeasance by our city officials or members of law enforcement, we take action. We have no issue going to federal court with a case.
Excessive force and police misconduct are two issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent in our society. Our firm takes on instances of unlawful conduct, false arrests, unjustified shootings, and other abuses of power on a regular basis.
If we can’t reach a suitable settlement through mediation, we’ll go to court. In fact, Mr. Kirakosian won his case in Los Angeles Federal Court, obtaining a substantial award for a man who sued the Los Angeles Police Department for violating his constitutional rights and malicious prosecution by an on-duty LAPD detective.
If you or someone you know has suffered emotional distress or injury due to a civil rights violation, contact our attorney at Kirakosian Law APC for a free consultation.