Every United States citizen is entitled to certain freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. In addition, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from discrimination based on sex, race, religion, and national origin. If you believe that your civil rights have been violated, you may file a lawsuit against the person responsible for causing you harm.
Before you proceed with a lawsuit, there are a number of factors to consider. In order to prove that your civil rights were violated, you will need to collect evidence. This may include medical records, police reports, and witness statements. It is also in your best interest to consult with an experienced lawyer who can review the details of your case and recommend the best course of action.
What Steps Are Involved in a Civil Rights Claim?
Before you even start to collect evidence, the first step is to write a detailed statement about your claim, including the circumstances of the violation and who was responsible for the discriminatory behavior. This statement should include the following information:
- Date that the incident occurred. If your civil rights were violated numerous times, provide a timeline of each, including the date and time of the incidents.
- Description of the incident. Include information about the person or persons involved, the department they worked for at the time of the incident, and a description of what happened.
- Contact information of witnesses. If there were coworkers or other witnesses present when the civil rights violation occurred, get their contact information. When preparing this information for your lawyer, consider what you think the witnesses will say if they are asked to provide testimony and if their statement will be valuable to your case.
- Corroborating evidence. If you have any information or evidence that demonstrates that your version of the events that occurred are more accurate than the other person’s, this should be included. Examples of corroborating evidence may include emails, voicemails, text messages, and video or audio recordings.
- Description of how your rights were violated. Whether your civil rights were violated in the workplace, in jail, or by a law enforcement official, describe the incident in detail, including who the violator was, and what they did that made you believe that your civil rights have been violated.
In most cases, the next step is to file a claim with the federal or state agency before pursuing a private lawsuit. For example, if the allegations involve employment discrimination, you will need to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 of the alleged offense. If the EEOC grants a “right to sue,” you may file a lawsuit.
Your lawyer will advise you about whether filing a government claim is necessary based on the detail of your case. If you do pursue a civil rights lawsuit, you will need to consider whether to file in federal or state court. This may be dictated by a statute, and your lawyer will discuss your options with you.
How Do I Collect the Necessary Evidence?
Once you know the evidence that is going to be the most effective at proving your case, you will need to gather that evidence. Some evidence is easier to come by than others. For example, if you were injured as a result of a civil rights violation and treated at a hospital, you can obtain copies of your medical records.
If you were the victim of police misconduct, you will need to obtain evidence from police, a sheriff’s department, or another law enforcement agency. While police may not be quick to hand over records that could incriminate a fellow police officer, police records are public information. Police agencies cannot withhold this information if it is requested properly. Typically, police records include the following information:
- Arrests, detentions, bookings, and releases. They also include the amount of time you spent in jail and reports about any specific incidents that occurred while you were in custody.
- Video footage from body cameras worn by the police officer, surveillance videos from nearby businesses, or video footage taken by a third party that was obtained by the police officer.
- Any dispatch records, body camera reports, or other police records on your case.
To obtain your records from the police department or other law enforcement agency, contact the local police department involved in your case, and ask to speak to someone in the records department. You will be required to fill out a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request or a request for your local police department to obtain a copy of your records. Depending on the number of pages of your report, or the amount of time it takes to locate the information requested, you may be required to pay a fee.
What Are Examples of Common Civil Rights Violations?
The first step to seeking justice for a civil rights violation is knowing that a violation occurred. The following are examples of some of the most common civil rights violations that occur:
- Denying employment: According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee based on their race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. New laws also prevent discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, or disability.
- Using excessive force: If law enforcement officials resort to excessive force, this is a violation of one’s civil rights.
- Sexual assault: Language was added to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their gender or pregnancy status.
- Denying housing: You may not be denied housing because of your race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other protected class. If your rights have been violated and you were denied housing because of the color of your skin or your religious beliefs, one option is to file a complaint with the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department.
- Denying someone the right to vote: It is illegal to deny citizens the right to vote, yet a recent investigation found that restrictive voter laws have been enacted in 23 states. According to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it is illegal to prevent people from voting based on race and/or disability.
- Hate crimes: When someone threatens violence against another person based on their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, color, or national origin, it is considered a hate crime.
- False arrest and obstruction of justice: False arrests are less common thanks to advancements in DNA testing, yet they still occur.
Virginia Beach Civil Rights Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Can Help You Compile Evidence if Your Civil Rights Were Violated
If you believe that your civil rights have been violated, you are urged to contact our Virginia Beach civil rights lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC as soon as possible. We will ensure that you have the evidence necessary to prove your claim. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.