Civil Rights Violations

Civil rights are rights that protect the freedom of individuals from infringement by the government and private parties. In essence, civil rights guarantee equal protection under the law. Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples' physical and mental integrity, life and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as physical or mental disability, gender, religion, race, national origin, age, status as a member of the uniformed services, sexual orientation, or gender identity; and individual rights such as privacy, speech and expression, religion, and the press. The protection of an individual’s civil rights is taken very seriously in the United States, and on a global scale. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted a law to ensure punishment for violators of another person’s civil rights.

M. G. L. Chapter 265, Section 17 dictates that no person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, or attempt to injure, intimate, or interfere with, or oppress or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the constitution of laws of the commonwealth or by the constitution or laws of the United States. Any person conviction of violating this law shall be punishable by the following:

  • A fine not to exceed $1,000, or
  • Imprisonment not to exceed 1 year, or
  • By both fine and imprisonment.

If any bodily injury resulted from a violation of this law, a conviction shall result in the following:

  • A fine not to exceed $10,000, or
  • Imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or
  • By both fine and imprisonment.
What the Prosecution Must Prove

In order for a person to be found guilty of this crime, the prosecution must be able to prove four elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The alleged victim was exercising a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of either the Commonwealth or the United States;
  2. The defendant either injured, intimidated, interfered with, oppressed or threatened the exercise or enjoyment of that protected right, or the defendant attempted to do so;
  3. The defendant did so by using force or the threat of force; and
  4. The defendant did so willfully.
What Rights are Protected?

Article 1 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Massachusetts Declaration of Rights) sets forth the declaration of rights which are protected and necessary to residents of Massachusetts. It reads, “All people are born free and equal and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness. Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.” This section is modeled after the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, which serves to protect the natural rights of liberty and property to all citizens.

In most cases, civil rights violations occur in instances of police misconduct, or violations in prison and jail litigation. Rights that are expressly and implicitly guaranteed to citizens of the United States and residents of Massachusetts include the protection against illegal search and seizure, protection from double jeopardy, the right to due process, the right to an attorney, the right not to incriminate oneself, the right to trial by jury, and protection from excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment, etc. However, Massachusetts prosecutors have been aggressively pursuing defendants accused of violating the civil rights of police and other private individuals under a broad umbrella approach to enforcing this law. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy has significant legal trial experience defending ordinary people accused of violating civil rights in Massachusetts.

Whether you have been accused of violating another person’s civil rights by your actions or speech, the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy is available to protect your interests and defend against all civil rights charges. Do not hesitate to contact our firm today to discuss your case. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, we have successfully represented clients facing charges of civil rights violations and in unique and unusual situations. Accusations of civil rights violations appear to be on the rise as police and others try creative ways to “trump up” ordinary criminal charges such as disorderly conduct.

To arrange a consultation to discuss your civil rights charges, please call our office today at (617) 367-0450 or contact us online using our contact form.

Client Reviews
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