The concepts of civil liberties vs. civil rights are similar, but while civil rights protect individuals from discrimination, civil liberties refer to basic rights and freedoms of Americans. Knowing more about the differences between these two concepts can help you determine whether you have a civil rights claim in Chicago if you believe a person or entity has violated your civil rights.
What Are Civil Liberties?
Civil liberties give people protection from certain types of government actions by giving them rights and freedoms. The U.S. Bill of Rights in the Constitution describes these protections in the form of Amendments. Other legislature also lists some of these rights and freedoms for individuals.
According to the Constitution, there are two main types of rights:
The civil liberties that the Bill of Rights mentions and discusses are explicit, meaning they have a clear definition.
Some rights and freedoms given to individuals aren’t explicitly discussed or mentioned, but they may be implicit. For instance, Freedom of Expression explicitly allows people to freely express their opinions, information, and ideas, but it also implies that individuals have the freedom to keep these things private.
Examples of Civil Liberties
The Bill of Rights lists most of the explicit and implicit civil liberties that people have in the U.S. Specifically, the list of Amendments in this Bill of Rights defines and discusses the various human rights and freedoms of Americans.
Some examples of civil liberties in the Bill of Rights include:
- First Amendment — This civil liberty gives people the freedom of press, religion, expression, speech, assembly, and petitioning.
- Second Amendment — People have the right to bear arms under this Amendment.
- Third Amendment — This particular Amendment isn’t currently relevant, but it restricts soldiers from quartering in people’s homes during wartime without the owner’s explicit consent.
- Fourth Amendment — Citizens have the right to secure their private homes under this Amendment.
- Fifth Amendment — This Amendment gives the right to due process and protection against self-incrimination and double jeopardy.
- Sixth Amendment — This gives people the right to legal counsel and a just trial.
What Are Civil Rights?
While civil liberties cover the rights and freedoms of people under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, civil rights are different types of legislature specifically intended to protect individuals from discrimination. Every American citizen has the right to protection, according to this legislature, allowing individuals to potentially seek legal consequences if someone or an entity discriminates against them.
In many cases, the government establishes civil rights as a means of preventing future discrimination after discrimination has already occurred. Once the instance of discrimination takes place, Congress may develop policies or put laws into place that prevent a recurrence of that discrimination.
Civil rights and civil liberties are sometimes the same. Specifically, some civil liberties have become civil rights over the years through amendments and extensions. For instance, the First Amendment lists freedom of religion as a civil liberty, but the government has gradually made this aspect of the Constitution into a civil right through more recent legislature.
You can better understand the difference between rights and liberties by looking closer at whom those liberties and rights affect. For example, while employees don’t have the right to a promotion under the Constitution, women in the workplace do have the right to avoid discrimination when employers consider them for a promotion. The reason for this is that civil rights laws dictate that employers are unable to discriminate against employees due to their gender and other irrelevant characteristics.
Types of Civil Rights Acts
There are several types of civil rights acts that the U.S. government has incorporated over the years to give protection to all people. Some popular examples of these civil rights acts include the following:
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects potential and existing homeowners against discrimination. The FHA came about soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, and it prevents any form of housing discrimination against individuals due to their religion, race, family, or disability status.
42 U.S.C. Section 1983
You might also wonder “what is a section 1983 lawsuit” and how it works. This federal statute, also known as The Civil Rights Act of 1871, gives people the ability to sue the U.S. government for any civil rights violations committed against them.
42 U.S.C Section 1982
This act gives all U.S. citizens the same rights as white citizens to buy, sell, lease, inherit, convey, or hold personal and real property in the U.S.
Age Discrimination Act of 1975
The government passed this act to protect individuals from any form of age discrimination in matters of housing, government assistance, rehabilitation programs, education, and health care services. However, at the same time, this act doesn’t strictly prohibit the implementation of age restrictions when relevant and necessary.
Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents discrimination against people with disabilities when it comes to transportation, employment, government, and public accommodations. Disabled individuals are those who have conditions that prevent them from engaging in normal daily life in many ways, whether they have impairments affecting vision, hearing, talking, learning, walking, or performing other vital functions.
How to Know if You Have a Civil Rights Case
If you believe that someone has discriminated against you in any way, you may have a viable civil rights case. For example, if someone or an entity discriminates against you because of your race, religion, age, disability, or another characteristic, you may be able to make this a legal issue by filing a complaint and seeking compensation through a lawsuit.
You can better determine whether you have a civil rights case by consulting a civil rights lawyer to discuss the instance of discrimination and legal options. An attorney can also discuss the differences between civil liberties vs. civil rights to determine whether a violation of either occurred.
Recoverable Damages in Civil Rights Lawsuits
The specific damages you may recover will depend on the type of civil rights case you want to file. You may recover a variety of economic and non-economic damages, depending on the nature of the civil rights violation and how it affected your life and well-being.
For example, if you want to start a Chicago police lawsuit against police officers or a department for civil rights violations. This could result from the police’s use of excessive force, false arrest, unjustified shooting, chases violating protocols, or injury from a taser, among other instances of civil rights violation.
The damages you might be able to recover in the aforementioned case example could include economic damages like medical expenses for treating injuries and lost income resulting from the inability to work while recovering or due to disability. Meanwhile, you might also want to seek certain non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and psychological distress suffered because of the incident.
What Can a Civil Rights Attorney in Chicago Do?
Civil rights attorneys work to protect people’s rights, ensuring that their clients receive the equality and justice they deserve. In the process, civil rights lawyers may represent people of all genders, races, sexual preferences, colors, and others who have experienced civil rights violations.
If you believe someone has violated your civil rights in any way, the right civil rights attorney may be able to help you build a case against the parties responsible for the violation. These parties could include law enforcement, employers, school officials, government agencies, and many other parties who committed a civil rights violation.
To help their clients, civil rights attorneys will perform multiple actions. These tasks could include:
- Collecting evidence to prove the civil rights violation
- Legal document drafting
- Settlement negotiations
- Arguing cases on behalf of clients
- Staying current on civil rights laws and legislature
When to Hire a Civil Rights Attorney
It’s best to hire a civil rights attorney if you believe you or a loved one are a victim of a civil rights violation. An attorney can meet with you to discuss a potential case. If the attorney decides to handle your case, he or she may then represent you when negotiating a settlement and take the case to court if it goes to trial.
If you handle your case alone, it can also be difficult to prove that any discrimination actually occurred, especially if the responsible parties attempt to cover up their civil rights violations. An attorney with experience in these matters can help you secure a better outcome through reliable representation.
What to Do Following a Civil Rights Violation
In the event of a civil rights violation, there are steps you should take to build a civil rights case against the parties responsible for the violation. These steps include:
Consulting an Attorney
The first step to take is to speak with a civil rights attorney to discuss the violation and determine if you have a valid case. An attorney can help confirm whether discrimination took place and will be able to detail the options you have regarding filing a lawsuit and seeking compensation.
Beginning Informal Negotiations
The majority of civil rights cases involve negotiating a settlement out of court. For instance, if an employer fired you and you believe the reason was discrimination, you might arrange a meeting with your employer and your attorney to negotiate an agreement to settle the case. The employer in this case might agree to pay you for any damages resulting from the discrimination and cease his or her discriminatory behavior.
Reporting the Violation to the Government
You also have the option of reporting the civil rights violation to the state or federal government, including the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Upon filing a formal complaint with the government, the receiving agency will begin an investigation into the complaint and determine if a civil rights violation took place.
Filing a Civil Suit
Another option is to file a private civil lawsuit against any parties responsible for civil rights violations. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you might be able to seek damages resulting from the civil rights violation, including various expenses and pain and suffering endured because of the violation. This process would take the case to court and involve a trial setting.
Depending on the severity of the case and violation, the court may also choose to award punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages. Only a judge or jury can award these damages, and they’ll only do so if they determine that the defendant acted with “reckless indifference” or “malice” in his or her discriminatory act. The goal of these damages is to prevent future instances of discrimination from occurring.
During the civil lawsuit process, both sides will have the chance to present their arguments. They’ll share evidence proving or disproving the civil rights violation. In some cases, both sides might reach a settlement before the trial process completes, putting an end to the case before the court can make a judgment.
Take the Right Steps to Build a Civil Rights Case
If you or a loved one endures any type of damages because of a civil rights violation, you may build a case and file a complaint, negotiate a settlement, or begin a civil rights lawsuit to hold the liable parties responsible.
Knowing the difference between civil liberties vs. civil rights can help you figure out which type of violation to your rights or freedoms occurred. You may also work with a lawyer to determine if someone violated your civil rights or civil liberties.
Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.