Criminal Civil Rights Violation

Most civil rights violations are handled in civil court. However, some count as criminal civil rights violations. In this article, we’ll define the term “criminal civil rights violation.” 

Key Takeaways

  • A civil right is a legally enforceable privilege or right
  • A civil rights violation is an offense against a victim that impedes their civil rights
  • Civil rights violations can be discrimination on the basis of a person’s membership in a protected class, as well as a violation of somebody’s freedom of speech, religion, assembly, petition, or due process
  • Some civil rights violations can be prosecuted under certain criminal statutes, making them criminal civil rights violations

What Is a Criminal Civil Rights Violation?

A criminal civil rights violation is an offense against a victim that in some way impedes their civil rights. This can include discrimination on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Disability

It can also include the violation of certain civil rights such as the right to freedom of speech or the right to procedural due process. 

When a person’s civil rights are violated, the offender can be prosecuted under certain criminal statutes.

What Are Civil Rights?

To understand what a civil rights violation is, it is important to first understand what civil rights are. A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege. Civil rights include:

  • Freedoms of speech, religion, assembly
  • The right to petition the government
  • The right to procedural due process
  • Freedom from discrimination for protected classes (sex, race, national origin, etc.)

Examples of Criminal Civil Rights Violations

A person’s civil rights can be violated in a number of different ways. Some examples include:

  • Refusing housing to somebody on the basis of their membership in a protected category violates state and federal fair housing and anti-discrimination laws.
  • Refusing service to somebody in an establishment on the basis of their membership in a protected category
  • Discrimination in any aspect of employment including:
    • Hiring
    • Firing
    • Pay
    • Job assignments
    • Promotions
    • Layoff
    • Training
  • Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This includes:
    • Unwelcome sexual advances
    • Requests for sexual favors
    • Offensive remarks about a person’s sex
    • Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment
  • When government actors interfere with rights such as:
    • Freedom of speech
    • The right to free exercise of religion
    • The right to protest and assemble
  • Civil rights violations in policing, such as:
    • Unreasonable searches and seizures
    • Abuse by a public officer
    • A cruel and unusual punishment
    • Violating of Miranda rights

Legislation Governing Civil Rights

Civil rights are protected in a variety of places including the Constitution, federal legislation, federal court cases, state legislation, and state court cases. These include:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Age Discrimination Act of 1975
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act 
  • The Fair Housing Act
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The Equal Pay Act of 196
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • The Fair Housing Act
  • Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Civil Rights in Criminal Law

If your civil rights are violated by a company, an individual, a police officer, or a government official, you may be entitled to sue them in court. Most of the time, civil rights cases are handled in civil court. However, there are some civil rights violations that are adjudicated in criminal court. For example, a provision of the federal criminal code, 18 U.S.C. § 242 (Section 242) makes it a crime for government officials, including law enforcement officers, to subject any person to a deprivation of federally protected rights or impose different punishments based on a person’s race.

Knowing whether your civil rights violation case is civil or criminal in nature can be confusing. In such situations, it is highly recommended to work with a civil rights attorney, who will be able to help you understand and follow the correct procedures for handling the violation of your civil rights case.

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