The civil rights Ruth Bader Ginsberg championed

Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her fight for civil rightsWhen Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away last month, she left an impressive legal legacy in her fight for civil rights. Throughout her career — both as an attorney and a judge — she fought everyone to have equal protection under the law.

Civil rights and the Supreme court

Before becoming a member of the Supreme Court, she won five cases before them based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment — specifically the section that guarantees all citizens of the U.S “equal protection of the laws.” Early in her career, Ginsberg worked with the ACLU and led their campaign for gender equality, arguing more than 300 gender discrimination cases. Before her, the amendment was primarily used to argue for racial equality, but she successfully used it to fight for gender equality. She carefully chose cases that would highlight the inequality in how men and women were treated. She found success by taking on cases where men were the ones suffering discrimination.

In 1971, she argued in Reed v. Reed that an Idaho law stating that “males must be preferred to females” when determining the administrator of an estate was a direct violation of the 14th Amendment. The reasoning was that men were better at math. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the law was wrong.

In 1973, she won Frontiero v. Richardson, where her client was the husband of a female Air Force officer who was denied spousal death benefits because women were not considered the primary economic providers for their families.

Again, in 1975, in Weinberger v. Weisenfeld, she sued for a male client who had been denied Social Security survivor benefits because the agency assumed that men wouldn’t need them because they earned more money that their wives ever did. By arguing that gender discrimination hurts men as well as women, she was able to use the 14th Amendment to gain more equal rights for women. Her wins also discouraged state legislatures from writing any new laws that drew distinctions based on gender.

 

Using the 14th Amendment for other types of civil rights cases

After Ginsberg used the 14th Amendment to argue non-race-based discrimination cases, it opened the doors for other lawyers to use it civil rights cases for the LGBTQ community. In 1996, it was used in Romer v. Evans to overturn Colorado’s infamous Amendment 2 that prohibited LGBTQ citizens from claiming discrimination.

In 2015, it was used in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case that required all states to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states.

 

Fighting for civil rights on the Supreme Court

Once she was appointed to the Supreme Court, Ginsberg continued her fight for gender equality and civil rights. In United States v. Virginia, she wrote the majority opinion that struck down the admissions policy at the Virginia Military Institute. Once again using the 14th Amendment, she argued that a state-run institution could not use gender as a basis for denying women the opportunity to attend the school.

In addition to gender equality cases, she also wrote opinions about prisoner rights. In Cutter v. Wilkinson, she argued in favor of prisoners’ religious rights. And before she was on the Supreme Court, she would have all her law clerks visit prisons so they better understood what was at stake in the cases they assisted her with.

While not all of her opinions, cases and writings are considered perfectly in line with promoting civil rights, the sum of her life’s work absolutely shows the impact she had in arguing that the law should treat everyone equally. Her actions both as an attorney and a judge will be felt for generations to come.

Additional posts about civil rights and discrimination

Sexist language and subtle discrimination

Dealing with disability discrimination in the workplace

Is there such a thing as pregnancy discrimination in the workplace?

Discrimination in Denver

Your Denver civil rights attorney

If you believe your civil rights have been violated, whether through police misconduct or discrimination, our civil rights attorneys can help you. Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at 720-515-6165 or use our online contact form. Schedule your free consultation with a Denver discrimination attorney today.

 

Call us at 720-515-6165

Sexist language and subtle discrimination

woman isolated at office, employee rights, sexist languageMost people can recognize sexist language as it’s often quite obvious, such as a man referring to a female employee’s looks, saying suggestive things about her, or calling her pet names like “honey” or baby.” But more often than not, it’s the subtle ways people use sexist language that can reveal gender bias or discrimination tendencies.

And while we are specifically referring to women in this post, know that sexist language can apply to both men and transgendered individuals as well.

Sexist language in the White House

Many people would agree that Donald Trump is pretty misogynistic because he has said some very derogatory things about women, especially when it comes to their looks. But it’s the more subtle wording he uses that implies an even deeper bias. He’s never been one to shy away from verbally attacking anyone he perceives as a threat — whether a man or woman — but the ways he chooses to insult people can be revealing.

For instance, while he is famous for using the phrase “nasty woman,” there are many instances where he has also called men nasty. However, he tends to reserve use of the word “mean” almost exclusively when discussing women. The term often implies how one person treats another person, or that they are ” offensive, selfish, or unaccommodating.” (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/mean?s=t). That definition suggests that the women Trump calls mean make him feel offended or like he isn’t worthy — a feeling that could denote unmanliness if Trump were to use it to describe a man.

Here are two examples of Trump referring to Elizabeth Warren as mean:

“…You got so horrible to people and they said you know she’s, not dumb, but she’s just so damn mean, we can’t vote for her. She’s a mean one. She is mean.” (https://factba.se/transcript/donald-trump-speech-kag-rally-north-charleston-south-carolina-february-28-2020)

 

 

“… But people don’t like her. She’s a very mean person, and people don’t like her. People don’t want that. They like a person like me, that’s not mean….”
(https://factba.se/transcript/donald-trump-remarks-coronavirus-emergency-funding-march-6-2020)

By comparison, when Trump refers to a man as mean, it’s in a complimentary way:

“… We have a man who’s smart as hell, and he is tough, and he is mean and nasty, but he loves this state, and he’s only mean and nasty because he wants to defend you and me, and all of the horrible things that we all go through…”
(https://factba.se/transcript/donald-trump-speech-kag-rally-dallas-texas-october-17-2019)

 

Sexist language in the workplace

While the obvious sexist language and behaviors are frowned upon and generally avoided in the workplace, it’s the more subtle sexism that seems to be taking over. The problem is that many people still place men and women in certain gender roles and have specific expectations for them. “Communal language is mainly applied to women, and it invokes stereotypical female traits like being supportive, showing warmth, and helping the team. Agentic [authoritative] language is mainly applied to men and is more about getting the job done, taking charge, and being independent.” (https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20170329-the-hidden-sexism-in-workplace-language) So, while a man who is good at his job might be referred to as confident or a leader, a woman acting the same might be called bossy or abrasive — the implication being that it’s okay for men to act in an authoritative way but not women.

” A 2014 study for Fortune.com by Kieran Snyder examined 248 reviews from 180 people, (105 men and 75 women). The reviews came from 28 different companies, all in the tech sector, and included a range of organisational sizes. One word appeared 17 times in reviews of women, and never in any of the reviews of men: ‘abrasive’. Other words were disproportionately applied to women, including bossy, aggressive, strident, emotional and irrational. Aggressive did appear in two reviews of men, in the context of them being urged to be more aggressive. Reviews of women only ever used aggressive as a criticism. The gender of the person writing the review didn’t affect the results of the study.” (http://sacraparental.com/2016/05/14/everyday-misogyny-122-subtly-sexist-words-women/)

 

Sexist language hidden in compliments

Another subtle way that sexist language can appear is in compliments, but ones that are reserved specifically for one gender. For example, the words “modest,” “vivacious,” and “ladylike” are words that are almost exclusively used to describe women. If she’s modest and ladylike, then she doesn’t exert her sexuality. If she’s vivacious or bubbly, then she’s pleasant to be around and isn’t too abrasive. And while they may sound nice, they all imply that the woman isn’t a threat to the men around her and that she’s valued for how she treats people and acts, as opposed to how good of an employee she is. And while some people may see these subtle compliments as harmless, they can affect not only how women think about themselves in the workplace but how they are perceived by their superiors, which may limit their advancement potential.

 

Determining discrimination and sexism in the workplace

Here are some questions to consider whether you are being discriminated against:

  • Are there consistent incidents of sexist language being used against you and other women?
  • Is there a pattern of bias or discrimination against women consistently being passed over for promotions or job transfers?
  • Are complaints of sexism being ignored?
  • Have you or others recently reported wrongdoing, but are now being retaliated against? (Fewer work hours, demotion, pay cut, etc.)
  • Have you consistently done a good job, but are now receiving disciplinary notices?

These are just some of the ways you may be able to determine if there is discrimination and not a complete list of questions to ask.

____________________________

 

Your Denver Discrimination attorney

If you feel that you have been discriminated against in the workplace and believe that sexist language may have played a part, our civil rights attorneys can help you. If you or a loved one has suffered sexist discrimination violation in your place of employment, call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at 720-515-6165 or use our online contact form. Schedule your free consultation with a Denver discrimination attorney today.

 

Call us at 720-515-6165

Face masks probably don’t violate civil rights

woman in face mask at work, civil rightsAmidst all the civil rights protests lately, one divisive topic has emerged: Is it a violation of my civil rights for the government to require me to wear a face mask in public? In short, probably not. Because of the rapid increase in Covid-19 infections, many states have issued temporary laws, requiring all citizens (over the age of 11, in Colorado) to wear face masks. In Colorado, it applies while “entering or moving within any public indoor space [or] while using or waiting to use public (buses, light-rail) or non-personal (taxis, car services, ride-shares) transportation services.” You aren’t required to wear them in private residences or when outdoors, unless you are waiting for public transportation. Given the public-available data on the Covid pandemic, face-mask orders probably bear a reasonable relationship to the emergency and are probably legal, based on pre-existing case law.

 

Does the government have the legal authority to mandate face masks?

Probably. Since we are in the middle of a public health emergency, state and local officials have the authority to issue and enforce reasonable rules of safety. According to Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, “This has been upheld repeatedly. No one has the right to expose the community to communicable disease.” Likewise, Colorado Governor Jared Polis has emergency powers that grant him the right to issue the face mask mandate, and that authority is upheld by the Colorado state constitution (Article IV, Section 2). A law passed by the legislature: Colorado Disaster Emergency Act, CRS 24-33.5-701 also supports this.

A state government’s power to issue orders that are reasonably related to the protection of other citizens during public health emergencies has also been upheld by the Supreme Court. This has been the case since 1905, when the Supreme Court ruled on Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The case involved a smallpox outbreak and local authorities mandated that everyone had to be vaccinated against it or risk a fine (unless medically unable to do so safely). The court upheld this authority, saying, “Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

“The public health expert consensus is that wearing a mask in public is a key countermeasure in combating the coronavirus pandemic because it helps slow the infection rate. Even cloth face masks can help curb community spread of coronavirus, in part by reducing transmission by people who are infected but experience no symptoms. The coronavirus pandemic is the kind of extraordinary circumstance when the public good outweighs individual inconvenience.” (Law.com)

To date, over 140,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, so it is likely within each state government’s authority to mandate necessary requirements issued for the purpose of protecting the health and safety of those who have not yet been infected, so long as those requirements relate directly to the cause at hand. Since Covid-19 has been shown to be spread by people breathing out tiny droplets that may contain the virus, face masks are likely to be considered a reasonable precaution. Face mask requirements are even more likely to be considered reasonable considering that many people who have the virus are asymptomatic and may unknowingly spread it to others.

 

Can I be required to wear face mask if I have a medical condition?

For those people “who cannot medically tolerate a face covering,” the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires that businesses, government entities, etc. make reasonable accommodations. Those may include offering delivery or curb-side pickup of things like groceries and goods, or offering online options for accessing services such as renewing a license. However, they aren’t required to allow you in their space without a mask, as that could endanger others.

The definition for those medically exempt from the order is pretty narrow: “a person who has trouble breathing or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face-covering without assistance.” It doesn’t include people who believe the mask will cause them to breathe in carbon dioxide or lower their oxygen levels.

The ADA has also issued a warning against using fake mask exemption cards that have flooded the internet. “The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.” (ADA website)

 

gloves and disposable face mask, civil rights

Can a business refuse me entry if I won’t wear a mask?

Not only can a business refuse you entry, but they are required to as they are responsible for upholding the state and local laws for face masks and other safety measures. Again, they have to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, so if you suffer from a disability, you should be prepared to make a specific request for accommodation that will not create an undue burden on the business. But as long as the business is enforcing the mask requirement equally to everyone, they are probably not violating your rights. Businesses are also required to post signage stating that masks are required. If you attempt to enter a business without a mask, you may be prosecuted for trespassing. Likewise, businesses that do not enforce the ordinance may lose their license.

 

Can my employer require me to wear face masks?

Because of the mandate, employers must require all employees to wear masks. They have to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities and should offer protection to those at a greater risk of severe illness due to Covid-19. Some employers may require employees to wear additional protective gear, such as gloves, and some are required to per Public Health Order 20-31.

If you are in a job that requires specific high-end protective gear like N95 masks, employers in Colorado are required to provide them. For all other businesses, government entities, etc. the Safer at Home public health order from March states that employers shall “provide appropriate protective gear like gloves, masks, and face coverings.” The newest public health order states that employers “should” provide protective equipment, but doesn’t specifically mandate it.

Regardless, employers are still required to provide workplaces “free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm” under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause. This is interpreted differently for each business and can include things like putting up clear barriers to protect employees who come in close contact with the public.

Other resources on our blog:

 

Additional resources:

Face-Covering Requirements and the Constitution

Colorado Mask Order: When Do I Need To Wear A Face Covering? (And More Mask Questions Answered)

Questions & answers about the statewide mandatory mask order

Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings

 

What are my rights if I protest the police?

citizens protesting against police and discrimination -- civil rightsThe 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.

protest facing off against police -- civil rights

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 a 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 cannot 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:

https://www.aclu.org/issues/criminal-law-reform/reforming-police/aclu-apps-record-police-conduct

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.

police tear gas crowds at protest, civil rights

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 authority 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.

Wrongful death lawsuits in Colorado

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit In Denver, CO?

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 a wrongful death, or 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 lawsuit 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.

Available compensation

Once a death is proven to be wrongful or negligent, 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.

If you believe your loved one’s death was negligent as well as preventable, call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165, or use our online contact form, to schedule your free consultation with us today.

 

Can I sue for illegal search and seizure?

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.

A potential illegal search and seizure in action.

This type of behavior is illegal under the Fourth Amendment, which protects American citizens from improper or illegal search and seizure.

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
  • Your name
  • Your address
  • 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:

  • Names
  • Badge numbers
  • Law enforcement agency or agencies involved
  • Any other relevant information

Call a civil rights defense attorney immediately.

Section 1983

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.

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.

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