Civil Rights: Understanding the Laws and Violations

Which Laws Protect My Civil Rights?

Civil rights form the foundation of a just society, ensuring the protection of basic rights and preventing harm and discrimination. Several laws safeguard your civil rights:

  1. The Bill of Rights: This document encompasses the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It guarantees essential rights such as freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly, the right to sue, bear arms, be free from illegal search and seizure, due process, speedy trial and trials by jury, and protection from excessive bail.

  2. The 13th and 14th Amendments: These amendments uphold freedom from slavery and equal protection under the law respectively. The 14th Amendment also obligates states to ensure due process.

  3. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: This legislation prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.

  4. The Missouri Human Rights Act: In Missouri, this act prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age (employment only), and familial status (housing only).

  5. The Kansas Act Against Discrimination and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act: In Kansas, these acts prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, physical handicap, ancestry, or age.

What Constitutes Civil Rights Violations?

Numerous violations can infringe upon the civil rights of individuals. Here are some common examples:

  • Excessive Use of Force: Often involving law enforcement, this violation occurs when disproportionate force is employed without just cause, resulting in harm. The tragic case of George Floyd exemplifies such misuse of authority, leading to both criminal and civil charges against the officer involved.

  • Unreasonable Search and Seizure: Violating the Fourth Amendment, this transgression arises when law enforcement conducts searches and seizures without probable cause.

  • Wrongful Arrest: Also known as false arrest, this violation occurs when an individual is detained without probable cause, an arrest warrant, or the detained person’s consent.

  • Violation of Due Process: When the government fails to follow the prescribed legal procedures, depriving someone of their freedom, property, or life, a violation of due process occurs.

  • Violation of Equal Protection: This infraction takes place when authorities discriminate against someone based on irrelevant factors, unrelated to the law.

  • Violation of First Amendment Rights: This involves infringements on a person’s freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government without facing consequences.

  • Employment Discrimination: This encompasses violations of state-specific legislation that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, and age.

  • Wrongful Death Violations: When negligent or malicious acts result in the death of an individual, the estates or families of the victims have the legal right to pursue a wrongful death action against the responsible parties.

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Understanding Section 1983

Section 1983 of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1871 grants individuals the right to sue the government when an individual acting on its behalf and with its authority violates their civil rights. To proceed with a Section 1983 action, the plaintiff must provide evidence that the person responsible for the violation was acting under the government’s authority at that time.

For instance, in a case involving excessive force, the plaintiff would need to demonstrate that the law enforcement officer was on duty during the incident. Evidence may include the officer wearing their uniform, displaying their badge, or using issued equipment like handcuffs or a firearm. By providing Section 1983 evidence, the plaintiff can pursue legal action against the governmental agencies employing the officer.

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