Civil Rights Violations
Police officers are expected to protect the community from criminal activity. In addition to this role, they have a second, equally important, duty: to respect the civil rights of citizens and suspects. Most police officers are fully capable of fulfilling this dual duty. However, as attorneys know all too well, some officers fail in their second duty and violate the rights of American citizens through police brutality, illegal searches and seizures, and other means. American citizens are entitled to certain basic constitutional rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights:
- The First Amendment protects citizens’ rights to free religion, speech, and assembly. This amendment prevents government workers from retaliating against a person who exercises these freedoms peacefully.
- The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches of citizens’ homes and property, and against arrests made without probable cause.
- The Fifth Amendment provides procedural protections for criminal defendants and ensures that the government may not deprive a citizen of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
- The Sixth Amendment provides further procedural protections for criminal defendants and ensures speedy and public criminal trials.
- The Eighth Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment. This amendment prevents the government from subjecting prisoners to inhumane treatments.
A civil rights lawsuit is separate from any criminal action, and may be filed whether or not the plaintiff has been accused, acquitted, or convicted of a crime. The purpose of a civil rights lawsuit is to seek compensation for rights violations the victim has suffered, and to hold the appropriate employees or agencies responsible for their unconstitutional actions. It is the job of a lawyer to fight for this compensation, which may include: medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional and physical pain and suffering. A Plaintiff may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are additional damages intended to punish those responsible and prevent them from harming others.
A civil rights lawsuit may involve a number of different allegations, including: police brutality, unlawful arrest, and unlawful searches. These lawsuits often involve overlapping state and federal legal issues. A lawyer must be able to work effectively with the appropriate government agencies to acquire all of the evidence necessary to determine the facts of a case. Only an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can successfully navigate this complicated legal landscape and present an effective case.