In any corner of the Internet, there are bloggers to talk about anything and everything. Food. Fashion. Culture. Trends. Anything people talk about. Supplemented by social media, a blogger can be unknown one day and known around the world the next. And they may not know their first amendment rights.
You may be considering a blog of your own. Maybe you want to talk about Denver’s restaurant scene, the city’s LGBT-friendly places to visit or the annual Denver Pride Fest. Or you’d like to inform the general public about a problem or two that not everyone knows about. Once you set up your website and start writing, you may wonder if you can say whatever you want. Yes, and no. Blogging is, for the most part, protected speech under the First Amendment. But before you start posting about something, there are a few things you need to be aware of.
What fhe First Amendment says
The actual text says:
“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.”
Free speech includes making statements about a person or topic that are truthful or based on an honest opinion. But there are exceptions, including:
Whether you work for a news organization or not, as a blogger you are still protected by the First Amendment. Indeed, many bloggers have uncovered stories that have undermined the so-called mainstream media, or stories the MSM ignored but needed to be told. Differentiation between opinion and fact is also important in a blog post. What happens when you say something someone doesn’t like?
Montana Blogger Crystal Cox is a blogger who considers herself a whistleblower, wrote a series of blog posts accusing Obsidian Finance Group and a bankruptcy trustee of tax fraud. Obsidian sued and won after a lower court found that because Cox wasn’t a paid journalist, Obsidian didn’t have to prove that Cox acted with negligence.
However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Cox was entitled to a new trial, even though she isn’t formally a reporter. “As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable,” 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel in the case. The attorney for Obsidian and their trustee, Steven Wilker, also observed that the 9th Circuit did not dispute that Cox’s statements and accusations were, indeed, false.
While Cox has been accused of making allegations of fraud and other illegal activities in exchange for payoffs for retractions, she was still found to be protected by the First Amendment. The 9th Circuit ruled that Obsidian would be required to show that Cox exhibited “negligent behavior.” In January of 2014, represented by UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, Cox won on appeal, giving bloggers the same protections as traditional journalists.
Free speech is a civil right
Are you considering starting your own blog? You’re in good company, and the First Amendment is on your side. But there are some responsibilities that go along with freedom of speech.
If someone has threatened your right to free speech, you can fight back. 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 understand civil rights cases, and aggressively defend you in court and make sure your rights are protected.
As a diverse and progressive city, Denver has a lot going for it. One of the more welcoming cities in the west, there are friendly people and something for just about everyone, including the LGBT community.
But the dark side of Denver involves something not so welcoming: police brutality.
Most police officers do their job every day, and no one ever hears about them. Unfortunately, there are more than a few “bad apples” that give everyone in law enforcement a bad name.
What is police brutality?
When a police officer (or multiple officers) use more physical force than necessary to respond and control a situation. This can include physical force on handcuffed or otherwise restrained individuals, unnecessarily injuring someone in their custody, as well as firing a weapon when unneeded. Police brutality can take a number of different forms and includes any improper or illegal activities connected with official duty.
Denver law enforcement officers have a sworn duty to protect all individuals from any constitutional violations that another law enforcement officer may inflict on an individual in their custody (or anyone else.) If a law enforcement officer witnesses another officer violating a private citizen’s constitutional rights, he or she may be guilty of failing to get involved.
The first step: Take care of yourself first
If you’re injured after an interaction with the police and believe you are the victim of police brutality, take these steps to get started on filing your complaint
Get medical attention
Photograph and document your injuries
Write down everything, in as much detail as you can
Are there witnesses? Get statements and any video or other recordings they may have of the incident
·Gather any other evidence that you may have, and keep it in a safe place, i.e., damaged clothing, cell phone, etc.
The second step: Filing a complaint
Reporting police brutality is the first step in doing something about it. The Denver Police Department website has a contact form that one can file their complaint immediately.
The Colorado Division of Civil Rights, which includes the Civil Rights Commission, has an entire website of information and resources to help you file a complaint. The DCR also offers alternative dispute resolution (also known as “mediation”) to assist with resolving conflicts and potentially avoiding court hearing and litigation.
You should also contact an attorney who specializes in civil rights violations to help you file your complaints and pursue justice.
Police brutality is against the law
The police do not have the right to deny you the constitutional rights you have. If the police have violated your rights (or even caused injuries), we’re here to help you recover for your damages, help you heal from any injuries and make sure justice is rendered. A civil rights attorney will aggressively defend you in court and fight for your rights, and if necessary, clear your name.
Many police officers exercise restraint when handling members of the general public, but there are times when a situation gets out of control. The law allows the police some flexibility when dealing with or handling an uncooperative individual. Deadly or excessive force can be used if the officer feels he or she is being threatened with it (i.e., a gun pointed in the officer’s direction.) But if physical force is unwarranted, and it’s used anyway, it may be excessive force, and a violation of one’s civil rights. What can you do when you’ve witnessed police using excessive force? The Civil Rights Litigation Group has handled many of these kinds of cases and can help you as well.
Is it excessive force?
The police have qualified immunity involving arrest, so concerns of legal action don’t interfere with their ability to do their jobs. Police are allowed to use reasonable force when handling a combative individual, but only to the point of subduing the person for arrest. Legal protections for citizens are available if force becomes excessive or unreasonable. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 forbids the police to restrict an individual of their civil rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
Excessive force is a general term used when a police officer is aggressive, forceful, and possibly threatens bodily harm when it’s unnecessary. For instance, if someone has cooperated with the police, either at a traffic stop, or during an arrest, (i.e., handcuffed and compliant), physical force or a weapon wouldn’t be necessary to restrain the individual. Continuing to physically subdue the individual after he or she has complied may graduate into the grey area of excessive force, particularly if the end result was severe injury or death.
If you are the victim of excessive force, don’t answer any questions that aren’t required (i.e., like your name.) Don’t speak unless absolutely necessary, such as asking for an attorney. If you have injuries from the police, request medical attention immediately. Don’t yell, become combative, threaten to sue, or say anything else about civil rights. Use your right to remain silent, because what you say really will be used against you later.
Gather evidence and build your case
You will have to prove your case of excessive force with facts and evidence. You need to work quickly, since police may begin erasing evidence and attempting to cover facts.
1. Immediately create a written record of the event. Document everything, including day, time, circumstances, witnesses and anyone who was with you. Don’t worry about formatting—you’re just documenting and organizing everything, and putting together a timeline to establish facts; you can format and summarize when you present it to your attorney. Once you’re in court, you will be required to tell your story, clearly and exactly. Written and coherent documentation of the events will help your case.
2. Gather physical evidence. Pictures, video, a police report or citation, medical records (if required), any damaged property (i.e., torn clothes or damaged shoes) and anything else that’s relevant is evidence.
a. If you were injured, take pictures of your injuries and save them in a safe place (i.e., online photo storage, not just on your phone or hard drive.)
b. Take pictures of any damaged personal property, and put the items away for safe keeping until they are needed.
3. Gather witnesses’ contact information. Witnesses who can verify and validate your story is crucial. An attorney may request a signed witness statement from them detailing what they saw. You need to document these facts as quickly as possible.
4. Take care of yourself first. If you were denied medical care in custody, you’ll need to get it now. If you were charged with a crime, you’ll also need to find a defense attorney and take care of it. Document everything, including time off work, legal fees and other details.
5. Talk to an attorney who specializes in civil rights violations by police. An experienced civil rights attorney can examine your case, help you file the appropriate complaints and work with you through the entire process.
What if I witness police using excessive force against another individual?
If you are a witness to police using excessive force, immediately document what you see, in as much detail as you can. Write down the time, date, place, names if you can get them, and any other relevant details you can remember. If you can take pictures or video, do so, and save them somewhere. Recalling the incident and going over it helps you remember specific details. You may be called upon by an attorney to give testimony later, and a written account will go a long way in proving excessive force.
Protect your civil rights in Denver
An experienced civil rights attorney is essential to handling a case against police. If you’ve been the victim of police excessive force in Denver, contact the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165 today for a free consultation.
Employment law is vast and always changing, and whether your employer pinched you in an inappropriate place or you just discovered that your boss has neglected paying you for overtime hours, it’s important to hire a local, Denver, Colorado employment lawyer who can represent your case and, using in-depth knowledge and in-court experience, fight for a beneficial and just resolution.
Whatever your employment-related legal case (more on this below), you should never make the mistake of hiring the attorney who helped a friend’s divorce, the attorney who closed your real estate purchase, or the prosecution attorney who knows a little about harassment in the workplace. Instead, make sure you get a lawyer who specializes in employment law and who can work the landscape to your advantage.
If you have an employment-related legal issue, get the leading attorney in the Denver area by calling the Civil Rights Litigation Group. You can reach us at (720) 515-6165 or filling in a form here.
What to expect when hiring an employment lawyer for your case
In civil cases in Colorado, there is this saying that, “The only person who wins in a civil case is the lawyer.” This saying refers to the often exhausting legal processes related to civil law as well as employment law. By filing a lawsuit or a complaint against your employer, you’ll be digging dirt up on them and the employer will be doing the same to you; sometimes, clients report that the stress of the legal processes disrupts their sleep and concentration.
Also, it’s important to remember that most employment law cases are not “open and closed.” Even if you believe you have an airtight case, your employer may surprise you with tons of evidence that could very well disrupt the chances of your lawsuit.
With these factors in mind, it’s always a good idea to take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Is it really worth it?” Filing a lawsuit might not be worth it, but then again, it could be. By speaking with an experienced employment lawyer, you can get a better idea of your case, the strength of your evidence, and other factors. By hiring an attorney, you not only receive expert guidance and counsel through the legal processes, but you always get a reality check at every stage of the process.
When should you call a Denver employment lawyer?
Whether you decide to call an employment lawyer is solely up to you, and yet, it can be difficult to know if your employment issue constitutes a violation of federal labor laws. For instance, were you denied that promotion because of a lack of experience or because you are part of a certain religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or another “group?”
At the Civil Rights Litigation Group in Denver CO, we handle any employment-related case related to federal laws. In general, this includes:
You are being forced to sign an agreement that waives some rights you are entitled to
Your employer has violated state or federal laws created to protect employees
You employer has not given you benefits detailed in your employment contract
How to prepare a first meeting with your attorney
So, you believe that you have an employment law issue; the next step may be to contact a local employment lawyer who will help you decide if your case is worth pursuing. And once you have the consultation scheduled, it’s important to do a little preparation to make the most out of the meeting. This consultation is an opportunity to make sure your attorney has all the facts and other information. Some important tips to keep in mind when meeting your attorney include:
Make sure to bring good, clean copies of any relevant documents
Bring a fact chronology that outlines the factual timeline of the case
Dress appropriately (remember, you want to try and convince the attorney that you’re serious about the case)
As always, make sure to set realistic expectations. Although you may be fired up about a work-related issue, the attorney may see something else in your case, such as a lack of evidence. In some situations, the attorney may turn down your case, and if this happens to you, remember that you need the right attorney, which doesn’t necessarily mean the first attorney who looks over your case.
Don’t hesitate and call the top Denver employment lawyer
There are many situations when you may need to call a Denver employment lawyer. With years of experience representing countless individuals who’ve had their rights violated, we at the Civil Rights Litigation can help you too. From carefully listening to your case to helping acquire the necessary evidence to pursue the defendant in Colorado federal courts, an experienced attorney will be one of the best tools you have for seeking justice and recovering damages. For a free, no-obligation consultation with our Denver law firm, call us today at (720) 515-6165.
Denver has a long history of police brutality, and although the State of Colorado has made substantial strides in improving trust between police and civilians, there are still police misconduct cases in Colorado. In fact, just last year, Denverites were marching down the 16th Street Mall to protest police-related violence.
If you were the victim or you suspect that you were the victim of police brutality, it can be helpful to look at the past cases in Colorado and gain a deeper understanding of the federal law and what you can do about it.
Nevertheless, U.S. federal law protects all persons in the United States (yes, all persons, including citizens and non-citizens) from police brutality, and if you were a victim, you can hold the responsible individual(s) accountable by calling Denver CO attorney Raymond K. Bryant of the Civil Rights Litigation Group. For a free consultation regarding your police brutality case, call us today at (720) 515-6165.
Federal laws regarding police brutality
Federal laws addressing police misconduct include both criminal and civil statutes, meaning that, in theory, police officers who violate the law can be liable for criminal charges as well as civil charges. For instance, in a recent case right here in Denver, jurors in Denver awarded $400,000 to a blind man who claimed police brutality after he had his head slammed onto a counter by a police officer.
Under the federal laws 18 U.S.C. § 241, § 242, it is a crime for “one or more persons acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” A law enforcement officer acts “under color of law” if he/she is exceeding his/her rightful power. Misconduct under this law, therefore, includes excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, or the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in a loss of liberty to another.
Furthermore, the “police misconduct provision” (42 U.S. Code § 14141) states that it is “unlawful for any governmental authority, or any agent thereof, or any person acting on behalf of a governmental authority, to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers…that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Under this law, it is illegal for police officers to engage in excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests. However, in order for a police officer to violate 42 U.S. Code § 14141, the misconduct must constitute a pattern or practice and it may not simply be an isolated incident.
Civil action for police misconduct and brutality
In the above section, we mentioned a few federal laws, and although these laws make police misconduct and brutality a criminal affair, it’s still important to consider the federal laws that allow Colorado residents to take civil action. The main provision in this respect is 42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights. Similar to the criminal provisions, this law explicitly states that any person who causes deprivation of any rights shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
Police brutality cases in Colorado
There have been many cases in Colorado, and between 2009 and 2011, police brutality in Colorado reached such an apex that the city was the sixth worst city in the U.S. for police misconduct and brutality (source: the Cato Institute’s police misconduct reporting project). Even today, Colorado holds a dismal law enforcement conviction rate in cases of police brutality (around 19%). The Denver DA’s office has not prosecuted a police officer in an on-duty shooting since 1993. Here are some other statistics illuminating the police brutality problem in Colorado:
In 2015, two Denver officers fired at a stolen car being driven by 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez, who was unarmed.
In 2015, 13 people were shot by police in Denver. Seven people died in the shootings, including 6 who were shot in a confrontation with police officers and a 7th who died in custody at the Downtown Detention Center (this has been ruled a homicide and remains under investigation by Denver police).
In 2013, inmate Isaiah Moreno, who was acting suicidally in solitary confinement, was attacked by guards with tasers. Denver’s Internal Affairs Bureau ruled that excessive force was used.
In 2013, the city paid $360,000 to four women who were roughed up by police at the Denver Diner.
In 2012, Patricia Lucero was bloodied by two Denver officers. In 2015, the Denver City Council approved a $50,000 payment to settle the case.
In 2011, inmate Jamal Hunter was tortured by other inmates in a brutal attack that Hunter claims was facilitated by a Deputy. The Denver City Council approved a $3.25 million settlement.
In 2011, Alex Landau, an African-American whom police pulled from a car and beat after he made an illegal left turn, won a $795,000 settlement.
In 2010, Marvin Booker died while being restrained in Denver Jail. Denver was ordered to pay $6 million in the settlement.
Protect your rights and call the Civil Rights Litigation Group
The City of Denver has spent about $20 million in settlements or jury awards over the past 10 years regarding police misconduct and brutality cases. Furthermore, every year, new cases pop up, and even though the state is taking active measures to reduce excessive force cases, it’s critical to ensure that victims and their families receive justice.
If you suspect that you (or a loved one) was the victim of police brutality, make sure to not hesitate and contact Denver civil rights attorney Raymond Bryant. Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group in Denver today at (720) 515-6165 for a free consultation.