Where and how do I gather evidence for my civil rights case?

how to gather evidence and records, photo of laptop and notebookWhenever 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. [1]
  • 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.

gather evidence from medical records, rows of foldersHow 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.

[1] This may not always be available, for example if your company or department specifically prohibits all recording due to sensitive security concerns.

How long does a civil rights case take?

empty courtroom for civil rights caseIf 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:

  1. Initial investigation and preparation for filing a lawsuit: 1-2 months
  2. Initial filing and litigation scheduling with the court takes: 3-4 months
  3. Motions to dismiss (briefing the court on legal issues pertaining to the claims): 4-12 months
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Trial prep: 2-3 months
  7. 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.

(720) 515-6165

Related articles:

Making a civil rights claim against the police in Denver

Civil rights and what makes a good case in Denver, Colorado

I filed an age discrimination lawsuit: What questions will I be asked?

What is the burden of proof in a religious discrimination lawsuit?

Is there a time limit to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Colorado?

Were you a victim of police brutality during the Denver protests?

citizens protesting against police and discrimination -- civil rightsOver the summer, Denver saw weeks of protests in reaction to the death of George Floyd. And, unfortunately, some police brutality. The majority of the protests in Denver centered around the Capitol and while most people came to protest peacefully, violence erupted, and many people were injured or exposed to chemical weapons. It now appears that protesters might not be as blameworthy as had been previously reported. A recent investigation has found that police may have needlessly caused some of the violence.

 

Police brutality and the Denver Police Department (DPD)

A recent article from Denverite (Police officers acted dangerously and anonymously during protests against police brutality and racism, investigation finds) discusses a recent investigation regarding the DPD’s response to the protests. The investigation found that the police used “unwarranted and reckless violence” and that “a lack of body camera footage and missing or vague documentation amounted to a mismanaged response from the very institution being protested.” There have been instances where the police violated their own polices by not giving orders to the crowds to disperse before using pepper spray, pepper balls, and other weapons — often recklessly. It also found that officers continued to use chemical weapons and explosives after people had started to disperse, and that some of the officers hadn’t been trained to use those weapons.

 

The Police Response to the 2020 George Floyd Protests in Denver, an Independent Review

The investigation and report are from The Office of the Independent Monitor, which is “charged with working to ensure accountability, effectiveness, and transparency in the Denver Police and Sheriff disciplinary processes.” The biggest problem they found regarding the actions taken during the protests was the lack of transparency. Body camera were frequently left off. Video footage was frequently not uploaded, and officers didn’t file use-of-force reports. Many officers failed to identify themselves and/or display their badge numbers. DPD even failed to document which officers was deployed during the first four days of the protest. That makes it difficult to assess blame in the more than 100 complaints received of officer misconduct. But mostly, the report found that the Denver Police Department needs to reform its use of force, body camera practices, and officer use of specific weapons.

 

Were you a victim of police brutality at the protests?

If you were injured by the unnecessary force of police officers during the protests this summer, we would like to hear your story. Police brutality is illegal and officers do not have the right to violate your constitutional rights. If the police have violated your rights and caused injuries, you may be able to file a claim to recover damages fight to ensure justice is served A civil rights attorney can help you determine whether a civil rights action should be filed.

If you or a loved one are the victims of police brutality or other law enforcement abuses, call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165 or use our online contact form. Schedule your free consultation with a Denver civil rights attorney today.

720-515-6165

 

Additional articles and resources:

Denver police use chemicals to deter people protesting police violence as downtown erupts in chaos

Office of the Independent Monitor

Attorneys hint at massive lawsuit against Denver for police department’s response to summer protests

 

Additional posts on this topic:

What are my rights if I protest the police?

Police brutality cases in Colorado and your rights

How do I report police brutality in Denver?

Police misconduct and your civil rights

evidence bags opened, police misconductWhen 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.

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.

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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

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