Federal laws and state legislation that is in place across the country protect individuals from various violations of civil rights. When a person suffers a violation of those rights, a skilled attorney may be able to help them file claims to initiate change or be awarded compensation for resulting damages.
What Are the Basic Civil Rights Guaranteed to All Americans?
The rights to life, liberty, and property are some of the primary tenets of rights afforded to citizens of the United States. When legislators create laws to ensure these rights are protected for all people, the term “civil rights” is used. Such laws tend to be very detailed, and they outline specific freedoms and protections that every citizen should be able to rely on.
In the United States, anti-discrimination laws typically focus on five primary categories:
- National origin
In many cases, legislation expands these categories to effectively represent individuals. For example, sex discrimination laws may include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender presentation, gender, pregnancy, and other related attributes. Legislation to protect individuals from religion-based discrimination may include specific details related to religious expression or the way adherents dress. There are also laws aimed at preventing discrimination due to other personal attributes such as disability or age.
Additional Constitutional and Civil Rights
Certain civil rights are specifically stated in the Constitution of the United States, although individual state constitutions typically have civil rights protections that match them or expand upon them. Some of the civil rights that are commonly protected by state and federal constitutional law include:
- Right to equal protection under the law
- Right to an attorney
- Right to due process
- Rights against unreasonable search and seizure
- Freedom of protest
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of the press
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of religion
Although there are other constitutional rights, these are the most frequently addressed in civil rights complaints.
Sex and Gender Discrimination Rights
There are two main areas where rights related to sex and gender apply — in school and at work.
Work-Related Sex and Gender Discrimination
Individuals who face negative consequences at their job based on their gender or sex may be awarded compensation for civil rights violations. Typically, we think of such negative consequences as being fired or simply turned down for a job, but sex and gender discrimination at work may also include the following:
- Changes in work responsibilities or transfers
- Being assigned extra tasks or work
- Being restricted from certain responsibilities
- Receiving less pay than coworkers
- Being passed over for a raise
- Not getting a promotion
Whenever these negative scenarios occur in relation to an individual’s gender or sex, it may be a violation of their civil rights.
Education-Related Sex and Gender Discrimination
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 amended the U.S. Constitution to address discrimination in education, preventing institutions that are federally funded from sex discrimination against their students. This may include high schools as well as colleges, regardless of whether they are public or private schools. In most circumstances, federally funded parochial schools must adhere to these requirements as well.
Civil Rights as They Relate to Police Brutality
Police brutality has been an issue most Americans have seen in the media due to events across the country in recent years. Civil rights related to this topic may relate to the following actions:
- Use of excessive force. Police officers can employ the use of force to contain or subdue individuals in specific scenarios. However, these actions are governed by stringent training and strict doctrines dictating the terms of “use of force.” Unfortunately, there are many situations in which police officers are accused of exceeding their authorized use of force when attempting to calm an aggressive individual down or arrest someone.
- Illegal search and seizure. Police officers are typically able to take property as evidence and arrest or detain individuals, but such abilities are limited. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution details these restrictions, stating that police must have probable cause and a warrant to enact a search, arrest someone, or confiscate property.Some exceptions apply to these laws, including the ability of police to forgo getting a warrant in situations, such as those in which evidence could be destroyed, the property they are attempting to search or gather is mobile, or anyone’s safety is at risk. Additionally, probable cause is not required for police to perform a vehicle stop, or similar stops, as they only require “reasonable suspicion.”
- Miranda rights violations and the right to an attorney. The 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution are similar to the 4th in that they restrict police actions. These amendments regulate when police can talk to a suspect in custody and what they are able to ask. The right to remain silent is guaranteed in the 5th Amendment to prevent an individual from incriminating themselves, and the 6th Amendment gives individuals the right to have an attorney present when being interrogated. When police take an individual into custody and ask them questions, they are required to advise the person of these “Miranda Rights,” named for the Miranda v Arizona decision of 1966.
Trust an Experienced Civil Rights Attorney With Your Case
Civil rights laws can be complicated, but understanding their application can be facilitated by a skilled civil rights attorney. For instance, laws in the Constitution such as freedom of speech apply specifically to abuse by the government. If a private individual silences someone’s speech at church or at work, it may not be a violation of their civil rights unless state legislation exists.
If you feel that you have suffered a civil rights violation, it is essential to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. The legal professionals at Exum Law Offices can help you to understand your rights and walk you through the legal process. Get in touch with us today to find out more.