Whenever you are involved in a civil rights case, you will need to gather evidence on your own to help move your case forward. In fact, obtaining the necessary evidence ahead of time is a good idea because many attorneys will want to see that information before agreeing to take on your case. The type of evidence and information your attorney needs is fairly straightforward, but the more you are prepared, the easier it will be. And don’t worry, you don’t need to be a private investigator or CSI fan to gather evidence — everything we’ve listed below is available from public records. Remember: the sooner you get all the evidence to your attorney, the faster the case can be reviewed and then you and your attorney can move forward with your case.
The initial statement
Before you start to gather evidence, the first thing we recommend is to write out a detailed statement for your attorney describing everything about your case, such as:
- Everything that was said and done between you and the person(s) involved. Who was involved? What department or company were they working for at the time? What happened during the incident?
- What date(s) did the incident(s) occur? If there were multiple incidents, describe each one in a timeline format, starting with the date of each incident, and include all details about each incident by date.
- Who was involved? Are there any witnesses and, if so, include their contact information and what you believe they would say if called to provide testimony.
- Identify corroborating evidence. Do you have any correspondence regarding the incident, such as emails, voicemails, texts, video or audio recordings, etc.? Colorado is a one-party consent-to-record state. Generally, people have a right to audio-record as long as one party to a conversation (usually you) consents to the recording. Thus, other people do not need to consent for you to do so legally. 
- How were your rights violated? If a police, jail, or corporate representative violated your rights, identify (to the best of your ability) what occurred and why you think the conduct at issue violated your rights.
As time passes, so do the memories of some important details. Writing down this information for your attorney can help you remember and serve as a reminder for later.
On that note, see our previous blog post on how long a civil rights case takes.
How to gather evidence regarding injuries and/or medical records
If your case involves injuries, you will need to gather evidence and document your injuries with photographs, video, and/or going to see a qualified medical provider. If you were taken to a hospital or see a medical provider, you can contact them directly and request disclosure of your records from the provider’s records department by filling out a HIPAA-Compliant request/release of records. If you were injured while in jail and treated there, you can get medical records either from the Colorado Department of Corrections or the county jail in the city where you were held. Once you call, always ask to be transferred to the records department before you make a records request.
How to gather evidence from the police, sheriff’s department, jail or other law enforcement agency
If you are pursuing a civil rights case that involves the police, you are allowed to gather evidence from law enforcement agency records departments. Typically, criminal justice and/or police records are public information. Police agencies cannot unreasonably withhold this type of information (whether requested by you or someone on your behalf), if you request it properly, including:
- Police or jail records showing arrests, detentions, booking/releases, the time you spent in jail, and/or any incident reports regarding specific incidents or occurrences.
- Video footage of you, including body cameras, surveillance video, or video taken by third parties that was obtained by law enforcement authorities.
- Any police reports on your case, including dispatch records and body camera reports.
How do I get my records from the police department sheriff’s department, jail or other law enforcement agencies
Every state is different, but the first thing you need to do is contact the police agency involved and ask for the records department. Then you will need to fill out a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request (for federal agencies) or a CORA/CCJRA (Colorado Open Records Act/ Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act) request for local police departments to obtain your records. The Colorado Open Records Act (1968), gives the public access to all government records except criminal justice records. Here’s a good article describing the difference between CORA and CCJRA requests and how to file them when you need to gather evidence. Usually, a person requesting records should do so by noting your right to records under CORA and/or the CCJRA, or simply by filling out and submitting the agency forms for such requests.
Occasionally, there may be some fees associated with obtaining these records based on the number of pages you request, or the time required to investigate and locate information. But this usually only occurs when there is a lot of information requested. In many cases you can request a fee waiver. In Colorado, you can get the fee information on the Attorney General’s website and on the CORA website, which has links to the forms that you will need to fill out (see the general CORA request form or the CORA Information and Procedure website for request procedures).
Here are some other agencies you can contact to obtain records and gather evidence:
DORA Public Information and Records: Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a list of all the CORA Custodians who can help with specific types of records, such as the Civil Rights Division. This website is specific to Colorado.
City and County of Denver Police Records: On this website, you can request many types of police records, such as arrest records and photos, accident and offense reports, 911 recordings, investigation reports, and audio and video recordings. Some of these records require a fee, which is listed on the site, and most can be ordered online. If you are in another county, look up the county name and ‘police records’.
Colorado Court Records: On this site, you can look up court documents in Colorado.
Colorado Department of Corrections: You can look up offender records for the state. On the City and County of Denver website, you can look up inmates being held in Denver jails.
A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies: This website has a complete list of all U.S. agencies, including contact information, for any FOIA requests.
How to find the right attorney
If you believe your rights have been violated, whether it’s discrimination or police misconduct or any other civil rights matter, it’s important for you to contact an attorney who specializes in civil rights cases as soon as possible. Many claims have a statute of limitations, so time is of the essence. The Civil Rights Litigation Group has successfully handled many civil rights cases over the past 10 years and we are 100% dedicated to civil rights issues. We offer free consultations so you can find out if you have a legitimate case. Please call us at 720-515-6165.
Call 720-515-6165 for a free consultation.
 This may not always be available, for example if your company or department specifically prohibits all recording due to sensitive security concerns.
If you have a civil rights case and are ready to work with an attorney to move forward, it’s important to be aware of how long that can take. Judges’ calendars fill up quickly and therefore just scheduling the trial can often take one to two years. Also, certain civil rights complaints need to be filed with specific agencies, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, before you can even move forward with a lawsuit. But if your rights have been violated, then you should definitely contact a civil rights attorney to find out how they can help you.
What is the timeline for a civil rights case?
If you have case that is taken on by an attorney, they typically take two to three years to get to trial. That timeframe can be delayed even further if a case is appealed before trial. Generally speaking, these are the steps for taking a case to court:
- Initial investigation and preparation for filing a lawsuit: 1-2 months
- Initial filing and litigation scheduling with the court takes: 3-4 months
- Motions to dismiss (briefing the court on legal issues pertaining to the claims): 4-12 months
- Discovery, which included gathering all the evidence from third party sources, asking written and in-person questions of all of the parties and witnesses, and hiring experts to render medical and/or legal opinions: 6-9 months
- Summary judgment (another round of briefing the court on the legal issues – this time with the evidence available to determine if we get to go to trial): 6-12 months
- Trial prep: 2-3 months
- The trial: this can last days or even weeks, depending on the complexity of your case
There is a tremendous amount of legal advocacy that has to happen to get a civil rights complaint past all of the layers of government official immunity, evidence sufficiency, and other issues before a court will allow a civil rights claimant to tell their story at trial.
Where will my civil rights case be heard
We typically practice in federal court while advocating for federal civil rights. Even when we have state claims, they often involve constitutional rights violations, which are a federal matter and therefore would go to a federal court. We practice in the state of Colorado and there is a federal courthouse in downtown Denver. During the covid crisis, most court matters are being handled remotely but will eventually return to the federal courthouse.
How to find the right attorney
If you believe your rights have been violated, whether it’s discrimination or police misconduct or any other civil rights matter, it’s important for you to contact an attorney that specializes in civil rights as soon as possible. Many claims have a statute of limitations so time is of the essence. The Civil Rights Litigation Group has handled and won many civil rights cases and we offer free consultations so you can find out if you have a legitimate case.
Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165 or use our online contact form to schedule your free consultation with us today.
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When people think about police misconduct, the first thing that comes to mind is usually police brutality — and that’s understandable considering the vast amount of press coverage from cases like George Floyd this year. But there are many other ways that the police can and have engaged in illegal conduct and have violated people’s civil rights. It is important to understand what they can and can’t do so that you can protect yourself.
Witness tampering and police misconduct
There have been many examples of the police getting caught in bad situations and then attempting to coerce witnesses to change how the evidence looks – for the police and the people police arrest. In Maui in 2015, Anthony Maldonado was accused of stealing $1800 from a person he had stopped. That right there is a crime, but after the victim reported it, Maldonado and several other officers tried to bribe the person to withdraw the complaint. Maldonado eventually pled guilty to witness tampering.
It is absolutely illegal for an officer to attempt use their power or authority as a police officer to attempt to get a witness to change their true testimony to something false or to unduly influence a complaining party to withdraw a complaint. But it happens all the time as officers have power and many people fall victim to their threats.
This type of misconduct can lead to criminal sanctions and even civil rights lawsuits for damages, if the conduct violates a persons’ constitutional rights.
Planting or fabricating evidence
If a case isn’t looking the way an officer thinks it should, they may decide to plant, fabricate, remove, or lie about evidence. One such example involves Richard Pinheiro, an officer in the Baltimore Police Department. His body camera actually caught him tampering with evidence at a crime scene. Unfortunately, fabricating evidence is a misdemeanor in Maryland so even though he was convicted, he is still on the job. Incidents like this also highlight the issue of bad cops being allowed to remain on the job.
Another example involved Michael Slager, an officer in North Charleston who shot and killed Walter Scott and then planted a taser near his body to back up his story that Scott was armed. Slager eventually received a 20-year sentence after a man came forward with a cellphone recording of the incident. Had a passerby not filmed the encounter, Slager likely would have gotten away with his crimes. This is one more example of why you should always record any police encounters you may witness.
This type of misconduct can lead to criminal sanctions if it is revealed, and possibly civil rights lawsuits for damages if the conduct violates a persons’ constitutional rights – such as when the lies/fabrications cause a person to be improperly jailed and/or prosecuted for a crime they didn’t commit.
When does police misconduct violate my civil rights?
While the behaviors mentioned above are definitely illegal, they do not always involve civil rights violations. For example, the most common civil rights violation applicable to manipulating or fabricating evidence is wrongful prosecution. However, in order to make that type of civil rights claim, there are several things you must be able to prove. For example, you must be able to show that the officer caused or continued a criminal prosecution where there was no probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed in the first place. You must also show that the officer created, planted, or lied about evidence that the prosecution relied on to prosecute the case. The criminal case against you must legitimately be terminated in your favor. You also have to be able to prove that the officer did all of this with malice and that it caused some sort of injury.
Reporting this type of misconduct so that appropriate criminal sanctions can be taken against officers is often the first step to getting bad officers removed from the police force. Filing civil rights lawsuits in appropriate circumstances is key to obtaining compensation when your rights have been violated. If you are faced with such circumstances, you want a lawyer that is 100% dedicated to understanding and helping you navigate these types of complexities.
We are here to help with protecting your civil rights
If you have experienced problems with your civil rights being violated by the police, please give us a call. We work diligently to protect civil 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.