Civil Rights Violations

Under a series of federal statutes enacted after the Civil War, someone whose rights under the United States Constitution or other laws were violated by another who is acting under color of law may file a case in court for the violation of those rights. The aggrieved party may seek money damages or injunctive relief. A party who prevails in this type of case may be entitled to recover his attorney fees and expert witness fees from the other side in addition to compensation for the violation of his civil rights. An individual defendant may be required to pay punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. Under certain circumstances, individual defendants are immune from liability. In general, the statute of limitations on claims for personal injuries applies to claims for violation of civil rights. In Illinois, the statute of limitations on claims for personal injuries is two years. The lawyers at the Law Office of John E. Marszalek are experienced in civil rights cases, and they are prepared to represent individuals who have suffered a violation of their civil rights.

Although a civil rights case may be filed in either federal court or in State court, most of the time they are filed in federal court. A party who files a civil rights case has a right to demand a jury trial. One does not have to be a citizen of the United States in order to file a case for violation of civil rights. Someone in jail may file a case for violation of his civil rights.

Examples of civil rights cases include cases filed because of violations of rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and the right to be free from having one’s life or liberty deprived without due process of law. Typical civil rights cases include cases filed by individuals who were arrested by the police without probable cause, cases filed by individuals upon whom excessive force was used when making an arrest and cases filed by the next of kin of individuals who were killed while being arrested.

A city or municipality may not be held vicariously liable because an individual employee of the city or municipality violated someone’s civil rights. For example, should an individual police officer employed by a city or municipality shoot and kill an unarmed individual who is obeying the law, the city or municipality is not responsible solely because it is the employer of the police officer, even if the officer is acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the shooting. In order to hold a city or municipality responsible, it is necessary to prove more than the fact that the city or municipality employed the officer. It is necessary, for example, to prove the city or municipality had an official policy or a custom of similarly violating the civil rights of citizens or others. The individual police officer must be identified and made a defendant in order for the aggrieved party to recover damages.

It is important to gather and maintain evidence as soon as possible. Taking possession of important evidence may make the difference between winning a case and losing one. Contact our Chicago civil rights lawyers today to find out whether you have a case. The civil rights lawyers at the Law Office of John E. Marszalek in Chicago will tell you whether you have a civil rights case.