We sometimes hear someone say: “My rights have been violated.” What does it mean to claim a violation of rights!
Citizens don’t think too often about civil rights cases, believing that “it can’t happen to me.” But it can. There are cases of mistaken identity, or teenagers or young adults who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Incidents such as the Rodney King case in California have made people more aware of civil rights violations.
A violation of civil rights usually involves the violation of a constitutionally protected interest. In order to give rise to a cause of action, the violation must generally have been the result of an act by some form of government agency such as a police department. These rights can include the right to free speech, the right to be free from false arrest and imprisonment, and the right to due process. Claims arise from being arrested without probable cause, being subjected to excessive force during an arrest, or being held in jail too long without a hearing. There are rights to be free from discrimination in areas such as employment and education, which have broadened the scope of civil rights law.
The leading statute under which many civil rights claims are brought is 42 U.S.C.
(United States Code) Section 1983, titled
Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights. The statute states: “Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State…subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.”
Civil rights claims may also be brought under State constitutional and statutory provisions.
Civil rights laws in our country involve an interplay of constitutional law, statutory law and administrative law. There have been many civil rights acts passed by Congress and numerous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court interpreting them. The area of civil rights law can be complicated by the numerous statutes and court decisions that interpret them.
If someone believes their rights have been violated, they should immediately consult with Rubin Glickman Steinberg & Gifford Colmar.