The Florida Civil Rights Guide was created by McKenzie Law Firm to help residents of Pensacola protect their rights.
All of us in the U.S. have fundamental rights. These rights come from our United States Constitution in the form of the Bill of Rights. Each amendment has been added to include even more rights and protections for citizens since the Bill of Rights’ inception. Sometimes, your rights are violated and that may mean you need to file a lawsuit. If you have been harmed because your Constitutional rights have been violated, please call our Florida civil rights attorney today to set up a free consultation.
Types of Civil Rights Cases
Florida has its own set of rights that are meant to protect the residents of the state. Those also play into whether or not you would have a civil rights lawsuit. Our Florida civil rights attorney has the ability to enforce those rights in civil court to seek justice for any violations perpetrated against you. We will defend you tirelessly and get you the best result possible for whichever violation has harmed you. We handle civil rights cases that include:
- Misconduct by law enforcement
- Excessive force
- Violation of the 1st and 4th amendments
- Violation of privacy
- Cases of discrimination
- Search and seizure without a warrant
- Denial of due process
- Wrongful conviction
- False arrest
- False imprisonment
We encourage you to call us right away if you feel that your Constitutional rights or civil rights have been violated in any way. We will be there to guide you through this every step of the way, but make sure that you act fast. Often, when people do not act as fast as possible, crucial evidence that would support your case disappears. You can recruit the help of friends, family members, or even a civil attorney to help you with the collection and preservation of evidence.
Crucial Steps for a Successful Civil Rights Case
As mentioned, collection of evidence is extremely important. You should first and foremost be taking photos or videos of the injuries you have sustained due to the violations of your rights. You can continue to take photos of your injuries as they progress as this will be powerful evidence. Another way to ensure that you are collecting evidence is to maintain a written record of everything. That includes the names of people involved, the witnesses, and everyone’s contact information. In some cases, there will be written records that directly try to discredit yours, so it is important that your information is thorough. You want to collect details as specific as possible. Then you can hand over all of this to your attorney who will know how to use them and leverage them to get you the best results possible.
The next thing that you can do in most cases is filing an internal affairs complaint which is sometimes referred to as a professional standards complaint. It will be a helpful tool for you in terms of getting documentation from the investigation, but the investigation itself may not prove to be helpful for your case. You can receive very important pieces of documentation, including statements that were officially made, which you can then use. It is strongly advised that you do not take this step without having an attorney at your side.
To help with the preservation of your evidence, you can send a letter to the law enforcement agency telling them that they need to preserve documents for later litigation. That will include all evidence pertaining to your case. You need to tell them your full name, where and when your incident occurred, and the names of anyone who was involved in the violation of your rights. They can preserve dispatch transcripts, 911 calls, radio traffic, the GPS location of all officers involved, the vehicles, mobile data, body camera footage, interrogation videos, and more. This letter is a very important step if you want to hold the law enforcement accountable for the violations of your rights.
You can also tell your Florida civil rights attorney to take depositions for the case. That might include the officers who were involved in the violations of your rights. You want to get this testimony as soon as possible. It is very valuable for your case to have it right away because if their story changes down the road, you have a stronger case.
Frequently Asked Civil Rights Questions
How Do I Find a Civil Rights Attorney?
The first thing you need to be aware of when finding an attorney is that they have the experience necessary. The particularities of civil rights law involves a host of complicated issues. First and foremost, these are cases that go to federal court.
Second, they’re going to be almost guaranteed to go to trial and have an appeal before trial. It is going to take a long time for the case to get resolved under most circumstances. That’s why it is very important that you have an attorney who is experienced in the area.
Something you need to keep in mind is if the attorney focuses particularly in that area. The focus is important because there are certain legal pitfalls in civil rights cases that are unlike any other injury case out there. For instance, in civil rights cases, government officials and entities are entitled to something called qualified immunity. What that means is that government officials can violate your constitutional rights and get away with it. The court will dismiss them early, which will lead to an early appeal. There are a host of issues that arise in a civil rights case that require you to find someone who is focused particularly in that area.
The next thing you need to be sure of is that you hire a trial attorney. There are a large portion of the cases in which the government entities and the individuals will ensure that you have to go to trial even if you beat them on qualified immunity. They like their chances at trial. They want to make you take them there because more often than not, they think the public will believe the government officials over the individual.
As a result, you need to have a trial attorney on your side who knows how to handle those issues before the case even starts. You need to know that the trial attorney is willing to take your case as far as it needs to go. Oftentimes, as mentioned before, it will mean an appeal before the trial takes place. When choosing a civil rights attorney, it is absolutely imperative that you find one that has experience, that is focused on that area, and that is a trial attorney.
What is a Civil Rights Case?
There is a variety of civil rights that apply to every individual and citizen in this country and sometimes even non-citizens. The particular civil rights that most attorneys handle are those protected by the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution.
There are only a very select few of those rights that we protect here at McKenzie Law Firm. The first is First Amendment rights. Those are free speech rights. If you believe your free speech rights have been violated in some way, and that the government has violated your civil rights, please feel free to contact us.
The other rights that our firm protects are Fourth Amendment rights. That means false arrest, excessive force, or fatal use of force by a law enforcement officer or a government entity or agent of some kind.
The last kind that we handle are 8th Amendment and 14th Amendment deliberate indifference cases. That is when people who are incarcerated have been harmed through the deliberate indifference of prison officials that have caused a person to become seriously injured in prison or in custody..
We’ve had to specialize in the constitutional cases that we handle. That’s why we only handle 1st, 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendment cases at this law firm.
How Much is My Case Worth?
When it comes to civil rights cases, even though it’s a federal case, we still use the state law of damages. What we need to know is what has happened to you.
What are your physical injuries? What injuries did you receive? What treatment are you going to need to receive for those injuries, and in the future what will any future needs be regarding those injuries? We need to know all of that.
We also need to know also how your life has been affected. Are you able to do the same things you used to do, like work? Then we need to know specific details about your life. Do you have small kids at home? What are the activities that you did with those kids? Has your life been affected in ways that we don’t know? Once we have an idea of that, then we can move forward with determining what a valuation of your case is and recommend one to you and move forward with your case at that point.
What Do I Do If I’m Injured During Arrest?
You should notify the law enforcement official that has arrested you that they’ve injured you. You should also notify any jail official when you’re booked into jail that you’ve been injured and also notify any medical personnel when you’re taken into the facility and notify them that you’re injured and tell them that you need medical treatment.
If, for any reason, you are stuck in the jail without medical treatment for any certain period of time, you need to ensure that you follow all of the procedures that jail or facility may have to make medical complaints or medical grievances based on whatever the processes described when you get in the facility. Those are the most imperative things that you can do to ensure that your injuries are taken care of in a timely manner.
The next most important thing you can do is contact someone besides your criminal defense attorney. You should contact a civil rights lawyer to speak with them to see if your case qualified as an excessive force case or under certain circumstances state law claims such as battery and assault.
How Long Do I Have to File My Claim?
There are a host of circumstances that come into play when it comes to determining your statute of limitations. If there was a wrongful death or medical malpractice, that can affect the time period in which a civil rights claim has to be brought. All of those things are contingent upon a variety of facts and circumstances that may be particular to your case, which may determine the time period in which they can be brought. In general in Florida, the statute of limitations that applies to a federal civil rights case is four years. If, however, there’s a medical malpractice claim, it’s involved, then there’s a two-year statute of limitations for that.
As well, you have to worry about if there are state claims, whether sovereign immunity caps have been waived or whether state claims are going to be brought against state entities. In the event that’s done, there are special statutes that apply. Again, all of these things are subject to very particular facts and circumstances that are unique to your case. You need an attorney to look at the particular circumstances of your case to make a decision as to which one may apply.
The laws may change in the state of Florida. It may no longer be four years. That is why it is imperative that, if you have a question, you contact an attorney immediately so that they can help you determine what the current statute of limitations is for your case to determine if you have a viable claim.
Can I Sue Police for Excessive Force?
There are federal claims that you can make for violations of your civil rights under the Fourth Amendment, which is your right to be free from the use of excessive force that’s unreasonable. Sometimes, depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have a state law battery claim or various other state claims that can be brought regarding the injuries that you’ve received. There are mechanisms and manners in which law enforcement officers can be responsible for causing harm to you.
What Do I Do After a Wrongful Arrest?
If you have been falsely arrested, the first piece of advice is listen to your criminal defense attorney. If it’s a private criminal defense attorney or a public defender, you need to listen to their advice and their advice only. They are the one who can help you with the immediate needs that you have in regards to your arrest.
A civil rights attorney handles your case after your criminal case has been resolved under most circumstances. If you still believe you’ve been falsely arrested or if your attorney indicates that you may have been falsely arrested, please contact our office. We will speak with you and determine whether you’ve been falsely arrested, and whether there’s a claim that can be made based on that false arrest. Unfortunately, under some circumstances, recovery can’t be made on false arrest claims even if you have been falsely arrested. It is very contextual and depends on the particular circumstances of your case.
Contact Our Florida Civil Rights Attorney Today
Any type of civil rights case is going to be a complicated thing to deal with and that is why it is so important for you to hire a Florida civil rights attorney to help you deal with this. We are here to offer our experienced and get you the results you deserve. Call our office today for a free consultation.