What Is a Civil Rights Violation?

The term “civil rights” refers to protections you are guaranteed under state, federal, and constitutional law (some are listed below). In other words, it is illegal to violate your civil rights, such as by unlawfully discriminating based on your gender, race, or physical ability.

A civil rights violation may not constitute a criminal misdemeanor or felony. Nevertheless, there are consequences to such violations, not the least of which may be the restoration of rights and privileges being unlawfully denied and restitution for all damages suffered.

Common civil rights violations include:

  • Arrest and imprisonment without due process of the law
  • Discrimination based on age, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected status
  • Inappropriate denial or discouragement of your right to vote
  • Being subjected to mistreatment or misconduct by law enforcement
  • Sexual abuse and harassment
  • Takings, or the loss of value of assets or loss of earnings inflicted because of actions committed by certain individuals, especially government entities
  • Unlawful denial of citizenship or other rights and benefits that would normally be


What constitutional and Federal Laws Protect Me Against Civil Rights Violations?

Commonly cited laws that serve as the basis for protections include:

  • The First Amendment — Right to express religion and opinions and exercise free speech as well as free investigation and reporting as a member of the press.
  • Fourth Amendment — Right against illegal search and seizure
  • Fifth Amendment — Right to a jury trial and to decline to make statements that may be used to incriminate you.
  • Fourteenth Amendment — Guarantees, among other things, equal protection for all citizens according to federal law.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Outlaws segregation and other unequal treatment on the basis of race and other protected statuses
  • The Employment Non-Discrimination Act Extends protections for employees and individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • The Americans With Disabilities Act Guarantees equal access to public accommodations as well as other employment and benefits protections.

Who Can I Sue for a Civil Rights Violation?

The subject of your civil rights violation claim (or lawsuit) depends on the specific context of your case. Commonly named parties include:

  • Law enforcement agencies and other governmental employees and contractors acting in a corrections or law enforcement capacity
  • Other government entities, including federal, state, and municipal agencies, as well as contracted organizations
  • Employers and other institutions that discriminate in hiring or in the treatment of employees
  • Businesses that provide goods and services to the public but who deny equal access based on race, disability, or other protected status
  • State and municipal institutions that violate 14th Amendment rights to equal protection by passing laws that violate federally mandated protections
  • Other individuals who discriminate, sexually assault, harass, or otherwise improperly deny your right to bodily autonomy and personal safety
  • Any institution that denies voting rights typically applies to state and municipal entities but sometimes extends to employers, interest groups, or other organizations
  • Immigration and border enforcement agencies
  • Anyone else who violates your rights, especially through criminal, wrongful, or negligent acts

What Type of Damages Can I Recover in a Civil Rights Case?

While damages can vary based on the nature of the case, there are some common damages that may be included below:

  • Restoration of rights or restitution based on the loss of ability or other rights inflicted by the offending party
  • Repayment of medical bills associated with injuries inflicted by the party, as well as the projected costs of future treatments
  • Lost wages, including any loss of earning potential or benefits as a result of wrongful actions
  • Replacement, restoration, or repair of unlawfully damaged or seized property
  • Pain and suffering, as appropriate, to the extent available under applicable law
  • Punitive damages are awarded in cases that proceed to jury trial and that involve harmful behavior that is reckless, egregious, intentional, or grossly negligent

Why Should I Call a Civil Rights Lawyer?

You should call a civil rights lawyer if you are even remotely concerned that your rights have been violated. There’s no risk to you to have what may be a short conversation to discuss your situation and your possible legal options. You may be provided with the next steps you can take to assert your rights and report individuals or organizations that stray from the letter of the law.

In situations where you have suffered damages, a criminal assault, or some impactful violation of your civil rights, a civil rights lawyer can provide invaluable contributions to your case. Navigating state, federal, and municipal law — and individualized policies and procedures by institution — can be extremely complicated. The opposing party is all but guaranteed to secure their own legal representation to protect their interests. You should do the same.

An attorney provides you with knowledge and resources to help you build the strongest case possible. They also act as your representative, helping you avoid certain situations that may be intense, traumatizing, or overwhelming. They can commit their time and their staff’s time to work on your case, gathering evidence, calculating the damages you have suffered, and doing everything possible to restore you to the position you were in before the violation took place.

In most situations, there’s a lot to gain and nothing to lose by securing the assistance of a civil rights attorney on a contingency basis. They can help you pursue your case and take steps you weren’t aware of in order to fight for your civil rights — while holding others accountable to the extent of the law.

The Personal Injury Lawyers ™ Are Here to Help Win Your Civil Rights Case

If you are in need of an experienced personal injury or civil rights attorney, call The Personal Injury Lawyers ™ at (312) 999-9990 or contact us online. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to help.



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Chicago, IL 60601