Civil Rights Litigation Attorney in Seattle, Washington
Civil rights in the United States are often identified with the movement started by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and indeed, his efforts led to the enactment of the powerful Civil Rights Act of 1964, but looking back, civil rights – and civil liberties – have often been at the forefront of American history.
After all, the yoke put around the rights of the colonists by the British led not only to the American Revolution, but also to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, which declared all people equal with an equal right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Later, when the colonists formed a national government with the U.S. Constitution, a Bill of Rights was added to protect the citizens against abuses by the government. Later, when the Civil War broke out, Congress passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution to add, clarify, and extend civil rights to all citizens and to anyone born in the United States.
With this deep background of a nation striving to protect the rights of its citizens, even to this day, people are still denied their civil rights through discrimination, whether on the job, in housing, in public businesses, and by law enforcement overreach.
If you feel you’ve been discriminated against, harassed, or denied your civil rights in or around Seattle, Washington, contact me at The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III. I will listen to your story, investigate, and advise you of your legal options going forward.
I also proudly serve all of Western Washington, including the Puget Sound Area, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett.
Laws That Protect Your Civil Rights
The Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution – is familiar to most Americans who know they have the right to free speech (and to remain silent when arrested) and to a speedy and fair public trial before a jury. The amendments also protect you from unreasonable searches and seizures and prevent the government from creating a national religion.
The Civil War amendments filled in legal gaps that were not anticipated when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted or were avoided, such as slavery. The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery or involuntary servitude anywhere in the United States. The 14th Amendment extends the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states and proclaims anyone born on U.S. soil is a citizen. The 15th Amendment forbids states from denying or restricting the people’s right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Flash forward one century, and even with these amendments, discrimination based on race, color, or religion was still surviving. Efforts by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Different sections of the act apply to different sectors of society. Title I guarantees equal voting rights. Title IV deals with discrimination in education, and Title VII covers workplace rights to be free of discrimination and harassment.
The Civil Rights Act established what are called protected classes, which at the time of passage included only race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Later legislation extended protections based on age, pregnancy status, veteran status, genetic information, and disability. Court decisions extended sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
States also pass civil rights legislation. The Washington Law Against Discrimination covers employment, housing and other real estate transactions, credit transactions, insurance transactions, and public accommodations like schools, government offices, and businesses that are open to the public.
Protected classes vary by the type and place of discrimination. The act is administered and enforced by the Washington State Human Rights Commission.
What Are Civil Rights Violations?
Civil rights violations generally refer to being discriminated against or harassed because of a personal characteristic that falls under a protected class as defined by the Civil Rights Act. Violations can occur at work, in housing, at a public place of business, in an educational setting, and elsewhere.
Even being denied employment, terminated, or denied promotional opportunities if they are based on your protected status is a violation.
In addition, other common types of violations include:
Unreasonable Searches and Seizures: Police must, in most circumstances, obtain a warrant before conducting a search or seizure.
Wrongful Arrest: You might end up in jail awaiting charges if police make a mistake, someone falsely accuses you, or you’re mistakenly identified in a lineup.
Equal Protection Violation: You must be read your Miranda Rights when you are taken into custody. Prosecutors also cannot violate your Miranda Rights. You do not have to answer questions. Consult an attorney immediately.
First Amendment Violation: You are allowed free speech in public, the right to assemble peacefully, and the choice of your own religion. If the police arrest you for appearing in public with a sign while speaking out on an issue peacefully, that might be a violation unless you broke some other law.
Excessive Use of Force: If law enforcement officials use more force than necessary when questioning or arresting you, that could amount to a violation of your civil rights, which can lead to legal action as defined in the next section.
Section 1983 Actions
Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 allows people to sue the government for violations of their civil rights. To bring a lawsuit under Section 1983, you must show that someone “acting under the color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State”, has deprived you of rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
Section 1983 lawsuits are often associated with the excessive use of force, but they can be brought for any violation of your Constitutional rights.
Civil Rights Litigation Attorney Serving Seattle, Washington
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a civil rights violation, don’t keep it to yourself, but contact me immediately at The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III. Together, we can discuss your situation and weigh your options. Let’s work to hold those responsible for your suffering accountable. I proudly serve all of Western Washington, including the Puget Sound Area, Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett.