The most important thing to remember is that the First Amendment guarantees every person in America the right to peacefully assemble and protest.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The right to protest is valued in our country and has led to many substantial changes over the past 200 years, such as the Civil Rights Act. When outrageous police abuse occurs — such as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis or the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles — that conduct affects us all. Exercising your right to speak up and to protest could foster recognition, awareness, and much needed change in the future.
However, it’s important to remember that the Supreme Court has recognized limits to the exercise of our rights – when they could affect the rights of others. Just like freedom of speech doesn’t provide the right to publicly lie about someone or the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, the right to assemble does not mean that a protester has cart-blanche protection to commit otherwise illegal acts, such as vandalism, and there could be criminal repercussions for those who harm others.
Also, current law permits “reasonable time, place, and manner” restrictions by governments to limit some of the unintended adverse effects of those who gather to speak in local communities. Legal interpretations of what constitutes “reasonable” time, place and manner restrictions can be nuanced, but they usually permit municipal action to do things like restrict protesters from marching down the middle of busy streets or instituting non-discriminatory curfews to curb looting and vandalism. Protesters have more leeway regarding location and time when a protest is spontaneous, such as immediately after a major incident occurs that calls for public outcry, like the events in recent days. However, the protection for spontaneous association will likely be subject to greater “time, place, and manner” restrictions after initial protests erupt and/or after public safety concerns surface.
When can the police interfere with protests?
If a protest escalates to include violence and property damage, local law enforcement has the legal authority to intervene to quell that violence or to arrest perpetrators. They may also have the legal authority to stop protests on private property, those organized without a permit, or those that block public rights of way, such as on an interstate or major street.
As to the time or duration of protests, law enforcement can intervene if a curfew has been legally established and police have given you warning, time, and opportunity to safely leave. Police should act only to apply limited restrictions in an non-discriminatory and even-handed manner.
What am I allowed to record at a protest?
There have been a lot of contrary opinions written regarding what citizens can and can’t record, with respect to the police. And while some states have limits on where you can post recordings with audio, the visual part of recordings is protected by the First Amendment and can be posted online and shared.
You have a First Amendment right to record the police while they are performing public duties. As long as you aren’t interfering with or threatening them, and stay a fair distance away from officers performing official functions, the police DO NOT have the legal authority to demand that you stop recording. In fact, it’s always a good idea to record any encounter with the police if you think things might go bad for anyone involved. Phone recordings have been key in prosecuting police misconduct in recent years, especially with the quality of video that most cell phones can produce. As Will Smith said, “Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”
Also, the police cannot legally demand your phone or confiscate it without a warrant, and those take time to obtain because they have to be signed by a judge. They also don’t have the authority to tell you to delete a photo or video. If you feel a confrontation may occur — especially one involving force — many have suggested complying, handing over the device, and then filing a complaint with Internal Affairs, the Office of the Independent Monitor (in Denver), or legal organizations like the ACLU or with local lawyers. But you absolutely have the right to retain possession of your phone along with any video or photos. If nothing else, quickly send or upload the media to someone before handing over your phone so that it can’t be deleted. The ACLU has developed a smart phone application that – once activated – will record and automatically upload any video taken from that phone to the ACLU for safe-keeping and later review:
If you don’t like your own photo being taken or publicly shared, you should know that your presence at a public protest means you have given consent for your photo to be taken and potentially used, most commonly by the media. After-all, protests are meant to be matters of public interest. There are a few restrictions, but if you are uncomfortable with your photo showing up on social media or potentially the evening news, you should consider other forms of speech or wearing something that hides your identity.
What are the police allowed to do during a protest?
The first job of the police is to protect your right to peacefully assemble — both they and public officials have taken a vow to uphold the Constitution. If you are acting reasonably, within the confines of the law, then they have no right to act against you or restrain you in any way. However, they are also charged with maintaining order and upholding the law, so if protesters or infiltrators start being violent or causing damage then the police will most likely take action. The concern for all of us is what form that action takes and whether it is proportionate to the public policy and/or legal justifications permitted under the law.
The main priority of police should be to de-escalate violence, but it has been shown time and again that the police often are the cause of violence. For example, if they start dropping tear gas canisters and firing rubber bullets at peaceful protesters before curfew has started, and without any legal and/or legitimate purpose, then they could be found liable for use of excessive force. This is one of the times when it is important to always be recording police on your phone.
What should I do if the police stop me or if I get arrested?
First of all, it’s always good to stay calm. Remember that sometimes the police just want to ask a question and you may not be suspected of doing anything wrong. The law permits police to ask questions without converting the contact into a seizure. Second, get your phone out and start recording. Finally, you always have the right to ask the police if you are being detained and/or free to go. If they indicate you are not being detained or are free to go, just calmly leave — you are under no obligation to speak to them. If they detain you, you have the right to ask why you are being detained.
If you are arrested or detained — whether justified or not — it’s best to remain calm and not resist. If other people are there, ask them to record everything they can. You do not have to speak to the police if you don’t want to — you have the right to remain silent. After you are booked, you will have the right to make a phone call so it’s a good idea to write a few numbers on your arm since your phone will be taken away. And it’s always a good idea to call a lawyer because while that conversation is privileged, the police do have the authority to listen in on calls to friends or family.
What should I do if I feel my rights were violated at a protest?
If you truly feel your rights were violated, the first step is always to gather evidence to support you. You have the right to sue for the violation of your rights and you should contact a civil rights attorney devoted to your rights. 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 of federal law permits those who are violated by official government actors (such as police) to seek redress in federal court. However, police officers are also covered by qualified immunity, which means they are shielded from civil liability if they didn’t break a clearly established law. That is one reason it is so important to record any interaction with the police as many of them are still not required to wear body cameras. Recordings remove much of the grey area of “he said, she said” when courts are charged with determining who is telling the truth. Video doesn’t lie.
We are here to help with protecting your Constitutional right to protest
If you have experienced problems with your civil rights being violated during a protest, please give us a call. We work diligently to protect constitutional rights. For a free, no-obligation consultation with the Civil Rights Litigation Group, contact our Denver CO law firm today at (720) 515-6165 or use our online contact form.
You may have heard the term “whistleblower,” but may not know what it means. Much like a referee in a sporting event, it’s someone who sees some type of illegal, unethical or other improper conduct by their employer, and “blows the whistle,” or alerts authorities or the press to the actions. And whistleblower protection is your right.
Who is a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers can be just about anyone, from a construction worker or foreman to an office clerk, a first responder or agency employee, a manager of any level, or a hospital employee from a janitor or orderly to department head or chief medical officer. The term applies to anyone who calls out improper conduct at work to a higher-level supervisor, a governing agency, the press, or other authority, in either the private or public sector.
Examples of a whistleblower include:
A retail employee who becomes aware that another employee or manager is violating company policies, particularly in terms of the company’s funds
A nursing home employee who notifies a state regulating agency about patient neglect, abuse, mistreatment or financial exploitation
A construction worker who notifies a regulating agency about the lack of safety equipment or procedures on a job site
An office worker who notifies a governing agency about funds and/or supplies that are missing or misappropriated
A financial services professional who becomes aware of a client’s funds misappropriated by a colleague, “selling away” (selling products not represented by the firm) or convincing clients to purchase investments that are speculative and lead to potential client losses and reports them accordingly
Of course, these are just a few of the ways where someone can be a whistleblower. There can be any number of situations where the term can apply.
Many people may consider a whistleblower a hero. However, those identified don’t always see it that way. When improper conduct is exposed, there is a significant chance that retaliation against the whistleblower is a strong possibility. Fortunately, there are some protections available.
Colorado’s laws for whistleblower protection
The state offers protections for both public-sector and private-sector employees who highlight such actions. Colorado is an at-will employment state, but there are protections for whistleblowers in the case of wrongful termination and other retaliatory measures.
The first is Colorado Revised Statutes Section 24-50.5-103, which protects public employees who disclose information in the public interest, so long as it is true and not confidential. To report retaliation, the employee must file a report within 30 days of the incident.
The second is Colorado Revised Statutes Section 24-114-102, which protects private employees. In this case, the employee must attempt to provide their information to a supervisor or another internal division before providing it to an outside authority or agency. A private employee can also file a civil lawsuit after unlawful termination or other retaliation without first submitting to a formal complaint process. There is a two-year statute of limitations for filing such a lawsuit.
Federal whistleblower protection
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 protects federal employees who expose corruption, waste, and illegal acts related to their employment. The law also protects them from retaliation such as pay cuts, demotions, transfers and terminations after reporting.
The NO FEAR Act of 2002 added training for federal managers and supervisors to discourage retaliation against whistleblowers. It is intended to “improve agency accountability for anti-discrimination and whistleblower laws.”
Sarbanes-Oxley Act (also of 2002) was also added to protect investors after a number of accounting scandals.
In governing the financial services sector, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has its own whistleblower program. The SEC’s program also comes with financial incentives.
The agency has awarded over $300 million in awards since the beginning of the program in 2011. Many of these awards have been substantial, and have been awarded to those who uncover illegal or unethical activity in companies that handle investments.
Contact the Civil Rights Litigation Group in Denver, Colorado
“Blowing the whistle” on wrongdoing at work is a big step. Because of the complexities involved in this kind of action, it’s a good idea to speak with an employment law attorney before you do so. Retaliation is not uncommon, and is also against the law.
The Civil Rights Litigation Group is dedicated to protecting the rights of employee whistleblowers who are targeted with retaliation. If you find yourself fired or otherwise disciplined for whistleblowing, we can pursue lawsuit against you/ employers who have retaliated against employees, and will fight to get you compensation for your damages. For a free, no-obligation consultation with the Civil Rights Litigation Group, call our Denver CO law firm today at (720) 515-6165 or use our online contact form.
A car accident. A fatal slip-and-fall. A preventable accident at a workplace. Medical mistakes or preventable hospital-borne infections. A crime that didn’t have to happen if adequate lighting or security were available. A badly made or designed product that causes a death, including medical devices. All of these can lead to wrongful death.
Any of these situations can lead to the unnecessary death of an individual through negligence. This can leave grieving families with serious financial difficulties if the deceased is the family’s provider.
Colorado allows wrongful death suits to be filed on behalf of a deceased person, for the compensation he or she might have been able to recover as if they were still alive.
Several factors are involved when a person dies at the hands of another. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to recover damages from the responsible party through a lawsuit, known as “wrongful death.”
The permitted parties
In Colorado, it’s possible to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, but there are limits on who can file one, depending on the individual’s status. The Colorado Wrongful Death Act details these individuals:
For the first year after the death, only the deceased’s spouse may file
If the spouse does not file after the first year (or there isn’t one), any surviving children can file, as well as the spouse
If the decedent has no surviving spouse and/or children, the deceased’s parents can file
Anyone who would have been a beneficiary and lost an inheritance as a result of the wrongful death can file
A representative of the deceased’s estate may also file
Relatives such as siblings, nieces and nephews aren’t permitted to file a wrongful death suit unless they were previously a designated beneficiary or would have been a beneficiary.
Proving wrongful death
If the wrongful death is the result of a criminal act, there will be two parts to the equation: a criminal case and a civil case. The criminal case is brought by the state, and the civil case is brought by a spouse, children, parents, or other qualified individual.
In order to prove that the individual’s negligence is responsible for the death, you’ll need to prove it with “preponderance of evidence.” This demonstrates that the defendant is more than likely than not guilty of negligence that caused the wrongful death.
Once a wrongful death is proven, the plaintiff can request:
Medical, expenses, including hospital and emergency room charges.
Funeral and burial expenses
Lost wages, future wages, any financial benefits or anticipated inheritances (such as life insurance policy payouts)
Punitive (“punishment”) damages to make an example of the defendant and discourage other individuals from doing the same thing
Loss of companionship from the deceased person
Any other accident/injury related expenses
Qualified parties have a two-year statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit. That’s why it’s important to find a personal injury attorney who understands wrongful death laws to have the best possible outcome, and begin working with them as soon as possible.
Wrongful death attorney in Denver, Colorado
The death of a loved one is always difficult. But knowing that someone else’s negligence caused a needless death makes it even worse.
A police officer stops you after you didn’t see a stop sign. He asks for your license and registration (or insurance.) You comply with the officer, but a few minutes later, drug-sniffing dogs are inside and around your car. What brought this on? Is it illegal search and seizure?
What is illegal search and seizure?
In simple terms, it means a search and seizure conducted by law enforcement with neither probable cause that a crime is being committed or a warrant to conduct the search.
Additionally, any evidence that’s gathered from an illegal search and seizure is not admissible in court, under a doctrine known as “Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree.” Under the decision in Mapp Vs. Ohio, 347 U.S. 643 (1961), evidence gathered during an unconstitutional search is inadmissible in a state court criminal trial.
You can inform officers that if they do not have probable cause or a warrant, you do not consent to a search. If your car was searched by drug-sniffing dogs without your consent and they found something, without a warrant and no probable cause they may have committed an illegal search and seizure. Anything that was found in the process will not be accepted into evidence in court.
The Fourth Amendment
This simply stated part of the Constitution says that:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
A search, and any evidence collected from it, must have probable cause. If your home is searched, law enforcement are also required to have a warrant to perform a search. There are procedures that must be followed once a warrant is issued.
If the police show up without a warrant and ask to search your home, you can ask for a warrant to be issued first, and decline to consent to a search without one. A warrantless search could lead to procedures not being properly followed.
Warning: even if you state loudly that you do not consent to a search but the officer proceeds to search you anyway, do not resist. You could be charged with obstruction, assaulting a police officer, or other charges. But if the search is illegal, your attorney can file a motion to suppress, which will stop any evidence from the search from being introduced into court. You may also have a right to a civil court remedy as a result of the illegal search.
A search warrant does not give law enforcement the right to arrest you. They may gather any evidence in plain sight, and may look to see where you are hiding. However, if they gather enough evidence, they can arrest you based on that evidence.
The warrant and illegal search and seizure
This document must contain:
The judge’s name
The name of the agency conducting the search or arrest
Descriptions of items that are being sought
An officer is not required to have the warrant on hand, but if he or she does, under Colorado law they must show it to you upon request. If an officer removes property from your home, he or she must give you a receipt for the property as well as a copy of the warrant.
Note that you do have the right to remain silent and not answer questions. Should they threaten to get a warrant, insist that they do so. They will have to go to court to get it, and may or may not be successful. However, if you consent to a search, they won’t have to get court permission.
If law enforcement insists on doing a search anyway, remain calm, do not interfere, and begin taking notes immediately. If someone is with you, ask them to witness the unconsented search. Record:
Law enforcement agency or agencies involved
Any other relevant information
Call a civil rights defense attorney immediately.
This section of US law (42 U.S. Code, Section 1983) addresses the abuse of the legal system to deprive another person of their civil rights, and allows people to sue the government for any civil rights violations.
For this section to be used, the defendant must have acted “under color of,” in a specific jurisdiction. That is, the individual was acting in his or her capacity as a representative of a governmental entity. A police officer generally does, whether patrolling or performing a search and/or arrest. Police who use excessive force generally come under Section 1983.
It is possible to sue for damages incurred during an illegal search and seizure, if you were arrested. You can sue for property damage, pain and suffering, lost wages and other expenses as well as attorney’s fees
Defend your rights — call today
If you’ve been a victim of an illegal search and seizure, defend yourself. Get a lawyer who is experienced in civil rights violations and Section 1983.
It happens sometimes that people are arrested for reasons they don’t understand. You’ve done nothing wrong, but there you are, sitting in the back of a police car (not resisting arrest), and you’re not sure why. It happens more often than you think, and the ACLU has stepped in to assist hundreds of people like Valerie Rodriguez, a lady unlucky enough to have the same name as someone else who committed a crime. A police officer who failed to do the proper research facilitated the arrest of an innocent woman instead of one that caused harm.
Police officers may be quick to make an arrest if they believe you aren’t complying with their request. Unfortunately, even catchall charges like disorderly conduct and resisting arrest are up to the officer’s discretion. Even not acting fast enough when the officer tells you something can be “resisting arrest,” giving an officer free reign. If you’re innocent of the disorderly conduct but tried to resist arrest, that second charge may stick when you go to court. An officer’s report may be written to indicate that you have broken the law, when in fact, they may be covering up their own mistakes.
Interfering with a police officer’s duties and preventing him from making an arrest constitutes resisting arrest. This is true whether the individual is innocent of any charges or not.
If you do resist being arrested in Denver, CO, and you are innocent of the original charge, you’ll still be charged with resisting arrest under 18-8-103 (1) C.R.S, which is a Class 2 misdemeanor. You could face fines of up to $1,000 and as much as a year in jail.
Defenses against resisting arrest
There are defenses against this charge:
Self-defense, in which the individual intends to protect himself or herself against an assault by a police officer
In defense of another individual
The police officer is acting as a private person and not in his or her official capacity as a law enforcement officer
The police officer uses excessive force when it isn’t warranted
However, unlawful or false arrest are not defenses; you’ll need to fight this kind of charge in court.
If you are arrested for resisting arrest in Denver, CO
The safest way to proceed is to go along with the officer, do not resist, and give them no additional information beyond your name. State that you would like to answer any other questions in the presence of an attorney. Anything you say to the police, even before they read your Miranda Rights to you, can be used against you in court. Therefore, make no statements to anyone involved, including the police, without the presence of an attorney at your side.
Once you’ve been freed from jail, find an attorney who will not only defend you from the charge of resisting arrest, but demonstrate that you were, in fact, innocent of the original charge for which you were being arrested.
Defend your rights with a Colorado civil rights attorney
Most charges of resisting arrest are defensible. If a prosecutor offers you a plea bargain, you’ll still have a criminal conviction on your record. To avoid conviction, it’s best to take your case into a jury trial. That’s where a civil rights attorney can help.
If you or someone you know has been charged with resisting arrest and is innocent of charges, get the legal help you need immediately. Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165, or use our online contact form, to schedule your free consultation with us today. We’ll fight to help you clear your name against false arrests and other over-reaching actions by police.
Pregnancy and childbirth are a wonderful time in a woman’s life. From the first moment she discovers she’s pregnant until she takes home a newborn, she has much to do. One of the things she shouldn’t have to be concerned about is her job and pregnancy discrimination.
Many companies have specific policies and procedures in place to accommodate a woman during and after her pregnancy, including accommodations. Most companies implement temporary work re-assignments to accommodate a shorter work schedule. Some companies may hire a temporary worker or two while the worker is out on maternity leave. But not all companies are as progressive and forward-thinking.
There are laws in place to protect pregnant women from being singled out. But gender discrimination or pregnancy discrimination is still a widespread problem nationwide, particularly among low-income women. Many employers will find a way to terminate a woman’s employment due to her pregnancy, despite the fact that it’s highly illegal.
Employment termination is frequently disguised as a layoff, couched in less-than-favorable performance reviews, or a policy violation that wasn’t there before, such as tardiness without a doctor’s note or an increase in a weight-lift requirement. This directly impacts the woman’s family, since the income is cut off when they need it the most. Since pregnancy is exclusive to females, it can also be considered “gender discrimination.”
Laws against pregnancy discrimination
Both state and federal law prohibit pregnancy discrimination:
Pregnancy Accommodations In Colorado, in which an employer is required to offer “reasonable accommodations” to a pregnant employee, unless it would cause an undue hardship to the company. It also prevents an employer from taking “adverse actions” against an employee for requesting an accommodation. Requesting a doctor’s note for the requested accommodation is acceptable.
An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant employee as they would for an employee experiencing a different disabling health conditions (i.e., broken bones, stroke, recuperation after reparative surgery, etc.)
The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination for pregnancy as well as other common reason, such as race, creed, nationality, orientation, age, and other factors. This act requires all employers, regardless of size, comply with the state laws against discrimination.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 specifically prohibits sex discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy/childbirth. Women are to be treated the same as any other employee with a medical condition with respect to benefits, including healthcare, affected in the same way with a condition that temporarily prevents them from working or limits their ability to work.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law that prohibits discrimination against disabled workers by companies with more than 15 workers. Conditions related to pregnancy like gestational diabetes and preclampsia are considered disabilities under the law. You can’t be fired, harassed, or denied a promotion because of your pregnancy, nor denied assistance such as extra breaks or being excused from a lifting requirement. FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid guaranteed leave for pregnancy and childbirth.
What Is A “Reasonable Accommodation?”
Like many conditions, pregnancy includes its own symptoms, such as the well-known “morning sickness.” A pregnant woman in the workplace may need some accommodation during pregnancy, including:
A temporary modified schedule
Increased breaks for restroom, food and water
Equipment modifications, such as a chair with increased support
“Light” duty, including the reduction of weight lift requirements during pregnancy
Assistance with manual labor, or a temporary transfer to a less hazardous job
An employer is required to engage in an interactive discussion with the employee to accommodate their needs for assistance. The employer is required to supply reasonable accommodation as long as it doesn’t create an undue hardship for the company. For instance, a request for a new chair would be considered “reasonable,” but a request for an entirely new office to be built would not be.
An employee is not required to accept an accommodation she didn’t request, nor can she be compelled to take leave if the employer can provide a reasonable accommodation.
What you can do about pregnancy discrimination
Both state and federal law prohibit an employer from using your pregnancy as a factor in decision making for:
The hiring and interview process
Wages, benefits and other pay-related decisions
Promotions, transfers, demotions or other disciplinary actions
Retaliation for taking leaves of absence
Disciplinary action, such as suspensions and termination
It’s important to begin keeping documentation of any attempts at discrimination in the workplace that you notice. For instance, if another individual is being accommodated for a different type of injury, but you aren’t. If something has “changed” at work after notifying your supervisor of your pregnancy, or you’ve heard an increase in inappropriate remarks about your pregnancy, keep a written record. If you are being singled out, this written record will go a long way in proving your case.
If you’ve been terminated, fired, laid off, or had other adverse actions taken against you once you’ve revealed your pregnancy, it’s time to speak with a civil rights attorney who can defend you and protect your rights.
Workplace discrimination is against the law
The US has very strict laws against discrimination, particularly for a pregnant woman. Colorado also offers protections if you believe you’ve been targeted because of your pregnancy. Call The Civil Rights Litigation Group today at (720) 515-6165 for a free consultation. We’re experienced in helping people like you fight back. We can help you file your EEOC complaint, and represent you in court when the time comes.