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3 Potential Ways to Sue If Your Constitutional Rights Are Violated

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on September 15, 2014 8:19 AM

As an American citizen, you're entitled to a number of constitutional rights. But what can you do if your civil rights are violated?

Depending on which rights have been violated and by whom, there are several different options for pursuing a civil rights lawsuit.

Here are three potential ways to sue if your constitutional rights are violated:

  1. Lawsuit under Section 1983. If your rights were violated by a government official such as a police officer or public school administrator, you may be able to bring a suit under Section 1983 of the U.S. Code. That section allows a citizen to bring a lawsuit against government employees or entities for violation of any constitutional right. Section 1983 is frequently used to sue police department for police misconduct such as use of excessive force or wrongful arrest.
  2. EEOC complaint. For violations of civil rights by employers, you will typically be required to first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, known as the EEOC, within 180 days of the incident. After filing a complaint with the EEOC, the agency will investigate and either resolve your complaint or allow you to file a lawsuit.
  3. Join a larger, ongoing lawsuit. In some instances you may be able to join a lawsuit that has already been filed challenging a law as a violation of constitutional rights. One example: Recently, state laws that outlaw same-sex marriage have been challenged as unconstitutional. In some states such as Virginia, those cases were certified as class action lawsuits, allowing any same-sex couple in the state to join the suit, if they were denied the right to marry.

Civil rights lawsuits can be exceptionally complicated and often require specific procedures in order to proceed. Working with an experienced civil rights lawyer may be the best way to ensure that a violation of your civil rights gets the legal attention it deserves.

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