What to Do When Your Civil Rights Are Violated in Illinois

Knowing what to do when your civil rights are violated helps you resolve the issue and recover damages for your suffering. Your next steps after a violation of your civil rights in Chicago, Illinois, include documenting the incident, collecting evidence, seeking legal advice, and pursuing compensation through negotiations or a lawsuit.

You should also file a complaint with the relevant government agency. Doing so helps strengthen your case and have the agency investigate the issue and recommend appropriate corrective action. The complaint will go through different phases, including investigation, resolution, and appeal if you are unsatisfied with the outcome.

Recognizing Civil Rights Violations

What is a civil rights violation, and how does it occur? Civil rights violations occur when a perpetrator subjects a victim to a threat of force or discrimination just because the victim is part of a protected class. For instance, discrimination or removal of your granted freedoms based on race, color, age, gender, disability, or national origin amounts to a civil rights violation.

Common Forms of Civil Rights Violations in Illinois

The most common form of civil rights violation usually involves individuals or entities operating “under the color of law.” In particular, the individual or entity may be accused of abusing positions of power or authority provided by a local, state, or federal agency.

You can file a section 1983 claim against individuals or entities who violate your civil rights while operating under the color of law. These violations include getting deprived of protections against unusual and cruel punishment, freedom of assembly and protest, and the right to avoid unreasonable search/seizure. Other common civil rights violations include:

  • Denial of employment
  • Denial of housing
  • Sexual assault
  • Hate crimes
  • Denial of the right to vote
  • Education Discrimination

Impact of Civil Rights Violations on Individuals and Communities

Civil rights violations affect individuals, families, communities, and societies adversely. At the individual level, the victim may suffer trauma, which may involve bodily injury, shock, wounds, or a painful emotional experience. The trauma may produce lasting psychological effects and cause post-traumatic stress disorder.

Disruptions to family life, in the form of pain and suffering to the victim’s loved ones, can be a negative outcome of a civil rights violation. Family members may incur costs in treating their loved one’s injuries or illnesses, forcing them to rely on financial aid from well-wishers or the government. Children of parents whose civil rights were violated may grow up resenting the government and traumatized.

Civil rights violations may lead to distrust in the community, especially if the community belongs to a protected class. Community members may have difficulties accessing necessities readily available to other citizens. The outcome can be high unemployment and increased crime rates if the issue is unaddressed.

Immediate Actions to Take if Your Rights Have Been Violated

You must understand the immediate actions to take if your civil rights have been violated. The sooner you take action, the sooner the relevant government agency will investigate your case and determine if it’s worth resolving. Take the following actions immediately after a violation of your civil rights:

Documentation of the Incident

You need to explain the civil rights violation in a document known as a charge of discrimination. Turn to the Illinois Department of Human Rights for help preparing this document. Once it’s ready, file it within 300 days of the alleged violation or one year after alleged housing discrimination.

Provide detailed information that will help with the investigation. State your name, phone number, and mailing address where the authorities can reach you. You should also share details for another contact person to ensure you are always reachable.

You must provide your employer’s details if you face discrimination based on employment. Remember to state the most recent date the alleged violation occurred. The names and contact details of witnesses will also help the investigation.

Collect Evidence

You need to support your claim for a civil rights violation with various pieces of evidence. The evidence may include videos, photographs, forensic analysis, expert opinions, and eyewitness testimonies. Since the quality of the evidence matters more than its quantity, you should be careful when keeping records and preserving original documents related to the case.

A lawyer experienced in handling civil rights violation cases can verify and cross-reference the evidence to establish its reliability and credibility. The lawyer will also explore multiple perspectives and sources to accurately and comprehensively understand your violations. The affected communities, legal experts, and human rights organizations will be consulted and engaged throughout the evidence-gathering process to help authenticate the evidence.

Seek Legal Advice

Seek legal advice from your civil rights lawyer if an entity or individual violated your civil rights and liberties. Do so if you were mistreated or discriminated against based on race, gender, disability, or religion. Regardless of the violation, a lawyer can help you explore your next steps. Ensure the lawyer has some background on civil rights cases and certifications relevant to your jurisdiction. You should also find one who has helped clients with cases like yours.

Reporting Civil Rights Violations

You have the right to report violations of your civil rights. You can use various avenues to file a complaint depending on the nature of violation.

Options for Reporting Violations in Illinois

If you are a victim of discrimination in financial matters, employment, public accommodations, and housing, you can file a complaint with the Illinois Civil Rights Bureau. The bureau staff can also respond to your questions on civil rights matters. You can contact them via the Attorney General’s website or their hotline.

The Civil Rights Bureau, which falls under the Attorney General’s office, protects the civil rights of Illinois residents. It does this by enforcing laws that facilitate community outreach programs, strengthen civil rights laws, and prohibit discrimination. The bureau also investigates breaches of policing practices and hate crimes against individuals.

Like the Civil Rights Bureau, the Civil Rights Division monitors violations of laws against discrimination. This way, they protect American citizens against discrimination based on color, race, national origin, disability status, familial status, and sex. You can use the agency’s online form to file a complaint if you believe an entity or an individual violated your rights.

Contact the nearest FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) office of the civil rights complaint to report abuse of your rights by public officials or police. You can find the contact information of the FBI in your telephone directory under the section titled police. Alternatively, you can file the complaint with the DOJ (Department of Justice).

Where to Report a Civil Rights Violation When Incarcerated

The DOJ handles civil rights complaints on race, national origin, color, age, or sex discrimination committed by law enforcement agencies. These agencies include corrections facilities, jails, and the sheriff’s department. You can also file a complaint of discrimination based on disability to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

If you were discriminated against by a Federal Bureau of Prisons institution while incarcerated, you have 20 days to file a complaint. You must follow the institution’s internal grievance procedure when filing a complaint. However, if you believe filing a complaint may affect your imprisonment status, you should report the matter to a relevant Bureau of Prisons regional director.

Inmates confined in non-federal detention facilities should follow the facilities’ internal grievance procedures when their civil rights get violated. Filing the institutional grievance should precede the lawsuit filed in a court. The complaint can be about the practices or conditions the institution subjects inmates to during their imprisonment.

Benefits of Filing a Complaint

When the relevant government agency receives your complaint, it will determine whether it is worth investigating. The agency will review the allegation in the civil rights-related matter. It does this to ensure the violation meets state or federal law requirements.

If the investigating body needs more information about your civil rights matter, it will contact you. Afterward, you will have 20 days to respond to the request. The agency may dismiss your complaint for the following reasons:

  • The government agency lacks legal authority to investigate the complaint.
  • You did not file the complaint on time or were not granted a waiver of the filing deadline.
  • The complaint does not state a violation of any anti-discrimination laws.
  • The allegations raised in the complaint are inappropriate for investigation, since they got resolved in the past.

The relevant government agency may use various fact-finding methods to investigate your complaint. These methods include site visits, interviewing the complainant and witnesses, and reviewing the evidence. Once the investigation is complete, the agency will determine whether the evidence proves that the accused entity or individual failed to comply with the anti-discrimination laws.

Expect to receive a letter that highlights the findings of the investigation. With the help of a civil rights lawyer, you may express an interest in resolving the complaint through a resolution agreement. You may appeal the decision if you are unsatisfied with the resolution.

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.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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