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Civil Rights Law FAQ
Where do our civil rights come from?
The civil rights granted by the United States Constitution come primarily from the following:
- The Fourth Amendment
- The First Amendment
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964
1st Amendment Rights
When can the government regulate free speech or infringe upon our first amendment rights?
The degree to which the government may regulate a specific expression depends on the nature of the speech, the context in which the speech is made, and its likely impact upon any listeners.
What are the restrictions on freedom of expression?
Free speech and freedom of expression are broad rights that every American has. However, there are a few instances in which the government can restrict free speech.
The Supreme Court has identified several kinds of expression that the government may regulate to varying degrees without infringing on an individual’s Constitutional rights.
These instances are:
- speech that incites illegal or subversive activity
- fighting words
- symbolic expression
- commercial speech
- freedom of expression in public schools
- obscenity and pornography
Is it constitutional to teach religion in public schools?
No, it is not constitutional to teach religion in public schools.
Public schools are run by the government, and therefore they must obey the First Amendment. This means that while they can teach about the influences of religion in history, literature, and philosophy, public schools can’t promote religious beliefs or practices as part of the curriculum.
Additionally, students may be excused from some school activities if they conflict with their religious beliefs.
Can a teacher start the day with a prayer?
No, prayers aren’t allowed to be promoted in schools.
Prayers, scriptural readings, and loudspeaker devotionals violate the First Amendment because they promote religion. This idea holds true even if the prayer is non-denominational.
What should HR do in order to avoid a failure to investigate charge?
Your company’s HR department should do more than a cursory investigation into a sexual harassment complaint.
The human resources representative should interview the person filing the complaint, all witnesses this person identifies, and examine all documents related to the incident. If they don’t do this, then there may be a basis for filing a failure to investigate lawsuit.
Inmate Civil Rights
What is false imprisonment?
False imprisonment occurs when a person is confined or restrained, and this restraint can be imposed by physical barriers or by unreasonable duress.
Threats of immediate physical force are also sufficient to be considered acts of restraint.
In general, a person claiming false imprisonment must have reasonably believed that he was being confined.
What determines a bounded area when it comes to false imprisonment?
An area is only considered “bounded” if freedom of movement is limited in all directions.
If there is a reasonable means of escape from the area, the area is not bounded, and the situation isn’t considered false imprisonment.
I think I have a case of malicious prosecution. How do I know?
There are several elements that make up a case of malicious prosecution.
A successful malicious prosecution claim requires all of the following:
- beginning or continuing a criminal or civil legal proceeding
- there is no probable cause or reasonable grounds to the lawsuit or proceeding, as in the person bringing the initial lawsuit knows that the grounds of their argument are illegitimate
- if there is an improper purpose of the lawsuit or legal proceeding, for example, if the legal action has a purpose other than simply getting a judgment in the proceeding
- the plaintiff in a malicious prosecution suit must have successfully defended against and won the previous illegitimate lawsuit
How do I prove that a prison official is guilty of failure to protect an inmate?
In order to charge a prison official with failure to protect, your civil rights attorney must prove deliberate indifference. Deliberate indifference, under most circumstances, means exactly what it
This is more than mere negligence.
It means that, in order to be held liable, there must be evidence that a correctional employee or official had been “aware of a substantial risk of serious injury to [the inmate], but nevertheless failed to take appropriate steps to protect him from a known danger.”
These cases can be hard to prove, considering there is a stipulation stating that, “Immediate intervention in an inmate-on-inmate assault is not necessary,” and that a prison official must simply “respond to the situation in a reasonable manner.” This gray area of what’s reasonable is why it’s so crucial to have a dedicated civil rights lawyer by your side. Don’t hesitate to contact our team of advocates and activists if you were a victim of failure to protect while incarcerated.
What's a pretrial detainee?
A pretrial detainee is a person who the government has probable cause to believe he or she has committed a crime, but the detainee has not yet been convicted of a crime. This person is confined in a jail prior to their trial.
What factors affect the amount of force a police officer or government official can use?
The custodial status of the alleged victim of force is a huge factor in the amount of force that’s considered permissible. This means the amount of force an officer can use against an individual depends on whether the person (or victim of force) is a pretrial detainee, a free citizen, or a convicted criminal who’s in jail.
When is police force considered excessive?
Police officers are expected to use a range of force, meaning the amount of force a police officer uses should be justified in the specific situation. A police officer can use an appropriate amount of force that’s necessary to prevent a suspect from fleeing or to prevent people from being injured or killed. If a police officer uses force in excess of that required force, he or she may be guilty of using excessive force.
What can I do if I've been a victim of excessive force?
If you’ve been the victim of excessive police force or police brutality, then you have the right to sue and to seek damages for your injuries. An experienced, knowledgeable civil rights lawyer can help you to better understand the process, determine the best course of action, and figure out what restitution you may be entitled to.
Our Colorado civil rights attorneys will work with you to discover the scope of your case and decide how far your case should go. If it turns out a police officer or government official has violated your Fourth Amendment Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and/or your Fourteenth Amendment Constitutional right to equal protection under the law, there’s a chance we can bring your lawsuit to federal court. Therein lies the opportunity to enact real change. We’ll fight for you and with you.
What are some examples of excessive force?
Unfortunately, excessive force occurs all too often.
If you think you may be the victim of a police officer or official’s excessive force, and one or more of these situations apply to you, it’s vital you contact an aggressive civil rights attorney right away.
Excessive force occurs when:
- There is physical force against a person who is already in police custody and is not resisting arrest or being in custody
- A police officer or official uses a weapon against a person who doesn’t have a weapon or against a person whom a police officer should reasonably assume doesn’t currently possess a weapon
- An officer of the law or government uses force to intimidate a suspect or a witness into
Are there any deadlines for filing a complaint of police brutality?
Yes, there are some important deadlines you need to consider when it comes to filing a complaint of police brutality.
These deadlines depend on claim of action. If you’re filing your notice of claim in state court, you must do so within 90 days. If you’re filing your notice of claim in federal court, you have two years to do so.
What kind of force is permitted by police officers?
The amount of force that’s permitted by police officers will vary from situation to situation. There are variables which will affect how a police officer responds, for example, if you have a gun or not or if your behavior is violent. However, you can’t assume that the way the police officer responds is correct, which is why you want to consult a lawyer to see if an altercation with police exhibited excessive force, and if you have a civil rights lawsuit on your hands.
*Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.