Constitutional Claims: Section 1983

September 30, 2016

While most people understand that they have civil rights that may not be violated, fewer have sought to enforce their rights after they believe they were violated. Under federal law, when your constitutional rights are violated, you may file a civil lawsuit, asking for an award of money damages to compensate you for a violation of your civil rights and federal law. The source of this law is referred to as “Section 1983” which is a section of the Civil Rights act of 1871.

There are several elements required to prove a Section 1983 case:

  • An identifiable person, subject to liability, most often in their official capacity, must be the person named in the lawsuit;
  • The named person must have been acting within the scope of their authority under state law. Only a person engaged in state action, such as a police officer enforcing state law, may be sued for a Section 1983 violation;
  • The named person, engaged in state action must be the cause of the underlying constitutional or federal law violation, moreover the individual must be at the very least the moving force behind the violation;
  • And the person complaining of a civil right or federal law violation must establish that they had a constitutionally protected interest, of which they were deprived without due process of law.

An example of a Section 1983 civil rights case:

Assume a law enforcement officer, acting in their official capacity, uses a Taser stun gun on an individual, in violation of their Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches and seizures, without due process of law. The facts could be such as the officer arriving at the individual’s home and breaking down the door to enter the house, without a warrant or other legal justification, to use the Taser gun. The individual might suffer physical damages in addition to a constitutional violation.

In defending against a Section 1983 case, the attorney defending the officer, thereby defending the state, may seek to prove that the officer did have an arrest warrant or was in hot pursuit of a fleeing felon, for example. Any element of the legality of the officer’s conduct would be argued in Federal court where the plaintiff would file their complaint for damages.

The Fourth Amendment is a common source of legal violations giving rise to civil rights lawsuits. There are many other types of Section 1983 cases which arise out of many different areas of constitutional and federal law.

If you believe you were a victim of a violation of your rights under the Civil Rights Act or another federal law, your constitutional claim can be analyzed and addressed by one of our experienced attorneys at The Michael Kim Law Firm, PLLC.

Section 1983, authorizing civil lawsuits for violations of civil rights, in full text follows:

“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.”[i]

About us: The Michael Kim Law Firm, PLLC, in Dallas, Texas, is a full service business transaction and litigation law firm of experienced attorneys serving the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The Michael Kim Law Firm, PLLC, represents individual clients and organizations with business and commercial law needs. The firm also represents both plaintiffs and defendants in general civil litigation, injury, property, employment and consumer matters.

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[i] 42 U.S. Code § 1983


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