America was built on the principle that everyone’s civil rights should be honored. We started this country in order to be free from tyranny and live fair, fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, there are times when those who are sworn to protect us and our freedoms, deny us these rights.
Luckily, civil rights attorneys exist to fight against these infractions and ensure that we are all treated fairly. If you feel that your civil rights may have been violated, the civil rights lawyers at Friedman Levy in New York City can help you understand whether your rights have been infringed upon, and defend you in court.
In What Ways Can My Civil Rights be Violated?
The first step in any crucial legal proceeding is to understand what rights are afforded to you. Civil rights laws were established in order to protect everyone regardless of the victim’s race, sex, age, religion or disability status. There are many ways in which your civil rights can be violated including, but not limited to the items listed below:
- Police Brutality. This term brings to mind images of the Rodney King being beating and other, more recent scenes of police violence. However, police brutality can also be extended to improper searches and excessive use of force in other ways such as using a deadly weapon when it was not necessary.
- Denial of the Right to Legal Representation. One of our most fundamental liberties is the right to have an attorney present during criminal proceedings. When this right is violated, it can leave you in a difficult position moving forward in your case. You may feel alone and hopeless when denied this basic right. A lawyer should be present to represent you, if you want them to be.
- Harassment. Harassment can happen during any portion of the criminal proceedings. It includes excessive, aggressive questioning and interrogations by officers throughout your case. This can also encompass the idea of “intimidation” as it relates to civil rights. You should not be coerced to say something due to the feeling of being threatened by the officer at the scene.
- Wrongful Conviction. If you are a victim of wrongful conviction or false arrest without being charged with a criminal violation, your civil liberties have been infringed upon. This can be a difficult case to straighten out without the help of an attorney who knows the legal system.
- Violation of You or Your Family’s Right to Privacy. This includes forced entry into your home by law enforcement.
- Racial Profiling. It is against the law for a police officer to arrest or interrogate individuals purely based on the color of their skin.
- Age Discrimination. The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination based on age in federally funded programs such as housing, welfare, and food stamps. Additionally, it is illegal to discriminate against someone aged 40 or older in employment considerations such as compensation and raises.
- Disability Discrimination. All disabled individuals, whether the disability is real or perceived, are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act relates to employment, government assistance, transportation and other wide-ranging considerations.
What to do When Your Civil Rights Have Been Violated
The first necessary step when your civil rights have been infringed upon, is to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable civil rights attorney. Civil rights cases can be tricky and may be difficult to navigate without the help of legal representatives who have extensive experience in these matters.
Things move quickly in these types of cases. This is due to the fact that there are time limits restricting when you can file complaints to certain committees. For example, you cannot file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission more than 180 days after the act occurred. For New York City, the statute of limitation for police brutality cases is one year from the date of the assault and up to three years for other rights violations. Different states and jurisdictions may have different laws and statues regarding when and how to file your claim. Therefore, the sooner you enlist the assistance of a civil rights lawyer, the better.
Once you’ve retained a civil rights attorney, the next step that you and your lawyer will complete is investigating the violation and determining which of your rights have been violated.
This will, in turn, lead to interviewing witnesses and determining if the offending officer has any similar, prior misconduct charges against him or her. Again, speed is of paramount importance with all parts of a civil rights case. The more time that passes from the date of the incident, witnesses’ memories of that incident may start to fade. Additionally, officers originally assigned to your case may be moved to other departments, etc.
It is an unfortunate fact that civil rights cases tend to drag on for years. However, cases can be settled for considerable sums due to the high-profile nature of many of these cases and the desire of those who violate your civil rights to remain out of the spotlight.
Some settlements or compensation that you may be eligible for in your civil rights case may include payments for:
- Medical expenses including hospital bills, medications, etc.
- Rehabilitation including physical or occupational therapy, counseling, etc.
- Lost income due to being off work or injured.
- PTSD and emotional trauma requiring other mental health or medical services
- Scarring and injury resulting in disfigurement
It can sometimes be depressing to know that there are people out there who would abuse their power. We see horrifying images of police brutality and other civil rights violations almost daily when we turn on the TV. Harmful language and even racial slurs have worked their way into the common vernacular. Fortunately, there is hope for those who have been violated in such situations. There are civil rights lawyers who fight every day to keep our nation free and fair for all.