Civil Rights

Abuse of power is wrong, and some of the most egregious abuses are those committed by law enforcement acting unlawfully under the authority of their office. Fortunately, the United States Constitution has the Bill of Rights, which guarantees all persons in this country protection from government misconduct.

The right to be free from excessive force, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment are fundamental rights protected by law. Violations of these rights are litigated by Morgan & Morgan’s civil rights group.

Specifically, we represent victims of police brutality and wrongful imprisonment, including the victims of police shootings. Additionally, we represent prison inmates who were physically and sexually abused or assaulted by staff. We may also be able to help the loved ones of prisoners who committed suicide in prison, and those injured or killed when their medical needs were neglected.

Our civil rights lawyers are lead by Adrian Mendiondo, and if you believe you were the victim of a civil rights violation, Mr. Mendiondo and his team want to hear from you. Similar to our other practice areas, our team of civil rights lawyers may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and more, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Police Misconduct

The most notable cases in which police officers commit civil rights violations are unlawful shootings. In 2017, 987 people were killed in police shootings, according to the Washington Post’s police shooting database. And many more shootings resulted in catastrophic, but non-fatal injuries. Some of these uses of deadly force were justified, but many were not.

The right to be free from excessive force, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment are fundamental rights protected by law.

Less than lethal force can also cause catastrophic, life altering injuries. Any use of excessive force by a police officer is violation of the victims civil rights regardless of the type of force used. There is no excuse for police officers acting with excessive force, and offending officers should be held accountable for unlawful actions.

Another type of police misconduct is wrongful arrest without probable cause. Arresting a person without probable cause is the same as a kidnapping, and it can have devastating financial, emotional, and physical consequences for the victims. Persons who are wrongfully detained or imprisoned may be entitled to compensation once they’re exonerated. Contact us to learn more about how our civil rights lawyers may be able to help.

civil rights guide

You Don’t Lose Your Civil Liberties in Prison

When someone is in jail or prison they lose their freedom, not their civil rights. Unfortunately, there is widespread evidence of misconduct by corrupt jail and prison staff who physically and sexually assault inmates, and grossly neglect their medical needs.

In a 2010 report on physical and sexual assault in male prisons, 21 percent of the 6,964 inmates who participated in the study claimed to have been physically assaulted by a staff member and 1.98 percent claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a staff member. In both sets of statistics, staff-on-inmate physical and sexual assault occurred more frequently than inmate-on-inmate assaults of the same kind.

It should be noted that any sexual contact between inmates and staff is unlawful, as determined by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC). The commission was established after the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 was passed in order to establish guidelines for the act.

When someone is in jail or prison they lose their freedom, not their civil rights.

Establishing that there is no acceptable sexual contact between inmates and prison staff is important because one study cited in a Mother Jones report found that 66 percent of reported incidents of sexual misconduct by prison staff involved inmates who “appeared to be willing.”

Prison staff sexual assault is even more prevalent among female prisoners. Female prisoners make up just seven percent of the total prison population, according to Mother Jones, yet they represent 33 percent of all victims of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse. That’s a significant percentage for a group that makes up less than 10 percent of the total prison population.

It’s possible that the rate of sexual abuse is actually much higher among inmates than what’s known, because the NPREC also learned from its investigation that the sexual abuse of inmates is underreported. There are several reasons inmates don’t report the abuse, including fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, desire not to be labeled a snitch, feelings of shame and humiliation, or expectations that staff will not help them, according to NPREC’s findings.

Deliberate Indifference is a Civil Rights Violation

Outside of acts of physical and sexual assault, prison staff can also commit civil rights violations by not acting when they should. One example of deliberate indifference is when prison staff consciously ignore the serious medical needs of an inmate, which results in a more significant injury than would have otherwise occurred if the inmate had received medical care.

In a 2010 report on physical and sexual assault in male prisons, 21 percent of the 6,964 inmates who participated in the study claimed to have been physically assaulted by a staff member and 1.98 percent claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a staff member.

Another instance where not acting can lead to a civil rights violation involves jail suicides. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in U.S. prisons and jails, and has increased sharply in recent years, according to a Washington Post report. If an inmate is known to be suicidal but jail officials fail to act on that knowledge, this can also be a civil rights violation.

Were Your Civil Rights Violated? Contact Morgan & Morgan’s Civil Rights Lawyers

Police shootings often grab the headlines, but there are a variety of civil rights violations that that go unreported everyday. If you or a loved one were the victim of a civil rights violation, you have a right to seek justice.

You may even be eligible for compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and more, depending on the circumstances of your case. Contact Morgan & Morgan today to learn more about how our civil rights lawyers may be able to help.

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## FAQ’s

**Can I really afford a lawsuit against the government?**

With Morgan & Morgan, yes you can. We work on the contingency fee model, which means you pay nothing unless we win. And we have the resources to take any case as far as it needs to go, even against the deep resources of the government. 

**Does it matter if the mistreatment was by a police officer or a different kind of law enforcement agent?**

No. Although different laws can apply in different jurisdictions and situations, the simple truth is that anyone using the power given to them – by any level of government – to violate the civil rights of a person is breaking the law. And the person harmed by that violation may have the right to sue for compensation. 

**What if the abuse happened in jail?**

Prisoners have civil rights too. If a prisoner has those rights violated, whether through direct violence from a corrections officer or through the neglect of the prison administration, that prisoner has the right to demand justice. 

**What if the abuse happened during an arrest?**

Police and all law enforcement officers are supposed to be trained on how to arrest an individual without causing unnecessary harm. If force is used in excess of what is required by their training and allowed by the law, that is a serious civil rights violation, and is grounds for a civil rights lawsuit. 

**What if the police officer just made a mistake, and didn’t mean to cause harm. Should I still pursue legal action?**

100%. First of all, you have suffered harm that you need to be compensated for, and often the only way to get it is through pursuing legal action. Secondly, holding law enforcement accountable is the best way we’ve seen for getting governments to invest more in the training and protocols of law enforcement. Your lawsuit may not just get you the compensation you deserve, it may benefit your entire community. 

**Does it matter whether my rights were violated by federal, state, or local law enforcement?**

It does matter. There are different laws that cover different situations and different jurisdictions, so misconduct by an FBI agent would be handled differently than misconduct by a local police officer. But one thing that’s not different is that civil rights violations are wrong, and those who suffer them have the right to pursue justice. 
 

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