Your rights have been protected for centuries by the bloodshed of our best and brightest heroes. When someone tries to step on your rights you have a solemn duty to fight back. We fight the battles for you. Equality in America has come a long way, but that doesn’t mean that inequality has been eradicated.
As a minority, you still face discrimination or even violence. While you might feel like no one is on your side, this is not the case. You have rights that protect you from this discrimination. You also have Ruane Attorneys on your side, a team of people who want to help you get justice.
Over our years practicing law, our Connecticut civil rights lawyers have seen how the justice system can take advantage of minorities, the disabled, and those without a voice – often because they lack the financial backing of their opponents. We believe that every person who has suffered an injustice has the right to compensation. While this won’t make up for your hardships, it can give you some peace of mind. In addition, it can set a positive precedent for future cases like yours.
What Would You Do?
Picture this: You are driving home at night from a late movie. You mistakenly take the wrong road and get lost. While you are driving around trying to figure out how to get home, you see the flashing blue lights of a police cruiser come up right behind your car. Do you feel safe or afraid?
Frankly, everyone has a deeply personal response to this question.
Some drivers will feel relief because they believe that the police officer will be helpful and provide them with accurate directions home.
Other drivers become even more fearful because of the police officer’s presence. In their prior experience, the police tend to make already bad situations far worse.
Regardless of your race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, encountering police officers may make you uneasy. This uneasiness can turn into outright fear based on personal experiences or events in the news. The recent deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and others, have heightened public awareness of police misconduct. For years our society looked away from police brutality. This is not the case anymore.
No one can dispute that police officers have the right to use appropriate force when it is reasonably necessary for them to do so. However, there can be a thin line between the right amount of force and too much force. Police brutality is a real threat in our society. In the moment, the police have all of the power. That doesn’t mean that you are helpless. There are laws to combat police brutality.
But, you have to act.
Avoiding Issues With the Police
First of all, there are things you can do to avoid harmful interactions with the police:
- You should remain calm and respectful in your dealings with the police. Set the tone with the officer that you are cooperative and not a problem.
- Listen carefully to anything that the police officer says to you, and make sure to follow any verbal instructions that you are given. If you chose to speak, make sure you speak clearly and that you provide only necessary information to the officer.
- Show your hands to the officer at all times. If the police officer cannot see your hands, he or she cannot know whether you are holding a weapon, and then, you may be considered a threat. Police officers use force to respond to threats. You do not want the police officer to consider you a threat.
- Do not reach for anything without clearly asking and receiving permission first. Do not reach into your pockets, or into the glove compartment of your car, or otherwise hide your hands. You do not want the police officer to think that you are reaching for a weapon.
- Never run away or flee from the police officer. If you do so, the officer will use force to capture you. Running away places you in far greater danger of harm.
- Video record your interactions with the police officer, if you are able to do so. Many police officers will not permit you to video record your interactions with them.
Handling Civil Rights Violations
Despite your best intentions, some encounters with the police result in misconduct. If you believe that the police have violated your civil rights, you can seek justice with help from a Connecticut attorney. If no one reports the misconduct, the police officer will continue their problematic behavior. Others will be harmed by the same officer.
There are things you can do to stand up to police officer misconduct:
- You could make an Internal Affairs complaint against the offending police officer. Every police department has set up procedures for citizens harmed by police misconduct to make formal complaints. These Internal Affairs complaints are then investigated by specially-trained independent officers. When found true, Internal Affairs complaints result in progressive discipline against the police officer, and in the most serious cases, permanent loss of employment.
- You could make a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. This federal government agency, which includes both the United States Attorneys’ Office and the FBI, investigates civil rights violations for harmed citizens. Sometimes, local police or even state police can be reluctant, or even too corrupt, to remedy civil rights violations on their own. By using the power of the federal government, the Department of Justice can mandate change from above, and does not fear interference from local authorities.
- You can file a civil rights lawsuit against the offending police officer. If you are successful, this lawsuit can result in money damages in your favor. Civil rights cases are highly complicated. They are usually litigated in federal court. The police typically defend themselves to the legal limit. You will want to have a civil rights attorney by your side. Contact Ruane Attorneys for your own representation.
Five Examples of Civil Rights Issues in Connecticut
1. The police are “profiling” you.
Profiling occurs when law enforcement targets people based on their race, perceived religion, sexual orientation, etc. If the police think that you are going to commit a crime or have committed a crime based solely on your race, that is racial profiling, and it is illegal. If you believe that you have been racially profiled, you can get legal help and protect your civil rights.
2. You’ve been attacked by the police and you didn’t provoke them.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not always against the law for a police officer to use force when dealing with the public. If it is reasonably necessary to protect themselves or others, the police can use force. However, the police need to use the appropriate amount of force for the situation that they are in. If they do not, they can commit “excessive force.” For example, if the police suspect that you have committed a crime and stop you, you tell them that you will cooperate and your actions are cooperative, but they physically assault you anyway, a case could be made that the force used against you was excessive.
3. You were denied something based on minority status.
It is against the law for you to be denied housing, a mortgage, a job, and other things based on your status as a racial minority. If this occurs, your civil rights might be violated.
4. You were discriminated against based on minority status.
Facing discrimination due to your gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, and other factors, is in many cases illegal. You can seek help for discrimination or harassment against you based on this discrimination.
5. You had an interaction with the police in which they didn’t follow the law.
The police have certain procedures that they need to follow. For example, they need reasonable suspicion in order to pull your vehicle over. They need a warrant to search your home. If they violate the necessary procedures under law, you can use these facts to defend yourself.
Police Dos and Don’ts
- Pull you over or stop you if they have reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime.
- Ask you if they can search your car or property.
- Use force to subdue someone who is not cooperating or who is threatening them or others.
- Ask you questions.
- Use the force necessary to subdue a suspect.
- Pull you over or stop you due to your race.
- Search you if you explicitly tell them that you do not consent (unless there are weapons/drugs in plain view).
- Use force when a suspect is cooperating with them.
- Threaten you into answering their questions.
- Use excessive force.
Your Rights When Stopped By the Police
Keep in mind that if you are stopped by the police:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- You have the right to refuse a search of your person and property.
- If arrested, you have the right to a lawyer. If you can’t afford one, you can have a lawyer appointed to you for free.
If you think that you are witnessing police brutality:
- Stand at a safe distance.
- Record the event on your phone.
- Write down what you witnessed.
Call a Connecticut Civil Rights Attorney to Discuss Your Case
In order to have a case, you have to prove that a protected right was violated. People discriminate against others for various reasons, but not all of these discriminatory actions are unlawful. You can review the other pages in this section to learn more about a situation that you are in and if it is a violation of a protected right. If you or a loved one is dealing with a civil rights issue, contact our office today.