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Civil Rights

Freedom begins with the Bill of Rights.  This includes freedom of speech, to express your ideas and to associate with whom you choose.  You are free to practice your religion, or not, and to be free of the government telling you what religion to follow.

You also have a right of privacy which means the government cannot pry into your personal affairs without following certain procedures.  The government cannot invade your home or arrest you without due process.  Even after having followed due process, the government cannot use more physical force than is necessary to carry out lawful orders.  If you are subjected to the criminal process, rightfully or wrongfully, you have a right not answer questions asked by law enforcement.  Your decision to remain silent must be respected and cannot be used against you.  In most cases, you are entitled to an impartial jury and a lawyer to represent you in criminal matters.  If convicted, you cannot be tortured or otherwise subject to cruel or unusual punishment.


Table of Contents
  1. When should I contact a lawyer?
  2. I can't afford a lawyer.  What do I do now?
  3. I was found guilty of committing a crime.  Can I still sue the police for beating me up during the arrest?
  4. The police ransacked my home in search of contraband.  Do they have to compensate me for all the damage they caused?
  5. The County seized my bank account to pay child support.  They are confusing me with another person.  Can I sue them?
  6. I was in court on a traffic citation and the judge used a racial slur against me.  Can I sue a judge for violating my civil rights?

When should I contact a lawyer?

Time is of the essence.  As you can see, there are many types of rights violations. Actions may have to be brought either in Federal Court or in State Court, and some can be brought in either court.  Different time limits apply.  In some cases, like education disputes with schools or colleges, you must exhaust all the administrative remedies (non-court remedies), before you can seek the assistance of the courts.

The laws are complex and you may miss out on the chance to protect your rights unless you  immediately consult a lawyer.

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I can't afford a lawyer.  What do I do?

Many times civil rights suits are not brought to recover money, but to make sure your rights are protected. Contingent fee contracts are not usually offered in civil rights cases.  In some cases, at least partial fees may be awarded to persons whose rights have been violated, but not in all cases. You and your lawyer will need to talk frankly about attorney fees and costs.

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I was found guilty of committing a crime. Can I still sue the police for beating me up during the arrest?

The answer is absolutely yes.  Two wrongs don't make a right.  If the police use unreasonable force during the course of the arrest, they have violated your constitutional rights and a jury may require the police to compensate you for your injuries..

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The police ransacked my home in search of contraband. Do they have to compensate me for all the damage they caused?

Maybe. The police may search your home if the properly obtain a warrant.  With a warrant, they are entitled to conduct a thorough search and take reasonable steps to protect their safety as well as yours.  However, excessive damage to the premises or searching beyond the scope of the warrant may constitute a violation of your constitutional rights. 

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The County seized my bank account to pay child support. They are confusing me with another person. Can I sue them?

When the government takes your money they are committing a seizure, just as if they had taking money out of your pocket.  Such actions may be a constitutional violation.  Contact your lawyer immediately if this ever happens to you.

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I was in court the other day and the judge used a racial slur against me. Can I sue a judge for violating my civil rights?

No.  The conduct of judges in court, no matter how wrong, offensive, or harmful, are generally immune from civil rights lawsuits.

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