Mississippi Violations of Constitutional Civil Rights Cases

As a human being, in the United States, and in the state of Mississippi, you have rights which may not be violated by a governmental entity or person. You are guaranteed certain rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment as they apply to law enforcement. Consider the following: 

Violations of the First Amendment

The First Amendment guarantees you the right to freely express yourself and the right to assemble peaceably, as well as certain freedoms concerning religion and the right to petition. One of the most recent First Amendment cases in Mississippi occurred in 2015, and was filed against the City of Jackson Mississippi Police Department for blatant, ongoing violations of free speech rights, specifically those of pro-life advocates. According to documents filed, the Jackson Police Department routinely harassed pro-life citizens who were peacefully exercising their legal right to oppose abortion in the public square.

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Apparently, the Jackson Police Department had harassed pro-life advocates as far back as 1996, threatening arrest, ordering pro-lifers to relocate, threatening arrest against a person who exited a parked vehicle to share pro-life literature, threatening arrest for noise violations against those speaking (in normal voices) about pro-life matters, and threatening to arrest those carrying pro-life signs. Police also, on more than one occasion, confiscated personal belongings of the peaceful protesters.

More recently, citizens in Ferguson, Missouri, were told they could not stand still while peacefully protesting, and could not stop walking for more than five seconds. Ferguson also tear-gassed and jailed reporters, and ordered photographers to stop taking pictures. Violations such as these must be addressed, and there must be no allowances for law enforcement entities violating First Amendment Rights.

Can I be arrested for speaking alone?

Violations of the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. In most cases, this means law enforcement must have probable cause, as well as a warrant, to search your person or your belongings. Should you be subject to an illegal search and seizure, any evidence gathered as a result of that search will be excluded under the Exclusionary Rule. In order to obtain a search warrant, there must be enough evidence available to convince a reasonable person a crime had been committed. While the right to privacy is not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, over the years the courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment, the Ninth Amendment, and others to protect privacy in certain situations.

Violations of the Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment protects citizens in the United States from excessive bail, excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishments. In the 1972 case of Furman v. Georgia, William Furman was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to death. The Supreme Court decided the death penalty was handed down to Furman primarily because he was a black man, therefore it violated Furman’s Eighth Amendment right of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. In a 1962 California case, Robinson v. California, Lawrence Robinson was arrested after a police officer thought he saw injection marks on Robinson’s arms. Based on the officer’s assumption, Robinson was jailed for 90 days, a sentence which was determined to be a violation of Robinson’s Eighth Amendment rights of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. In 2015, a federal judge in Jackson, Mississippi temporarily blocked the state from using two drugs in executions, because prisoners say they face the risk of excruciating pain and torture during an execution, and that such pain violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eight Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Violations of the Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution addresses a number of aspects of citizenship and the rights of citizens. The most frequently litigated phrase in the Fourteenth Amendment is “equal protection of the laws,” which figures prominently in many landmark decisions (Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, Bush v. Gore and Reed v. Reed) The Fourteenth Amendment also expressly prohibits states from violating an individual’s rights of due process, and equal protections.

In fact, all police officers should have knowledge regarding the constitutional prohibition of racial profiling, or other bias-based policing. While most officers are aware of the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure, many are less familiar with the provisions under the Fourteenth Amendment. The due process of law concept is actually a conduit through which most of the first ten Amendments are applied to state and local governments.

Due process essentially means fundamental fairness, and affects criminal investigations and prosecutions—due process prohibits the use of suggestive eyewitness identification procedures, and requires pre-trial government disclosure if a state witness has a known record of lying. The 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause additionally requires that police officers treat all people the same.

How We Can Help if Your Civil Rights Have Been Violated

If your civil rights have been violated, or you have been a victim of police misconduct, including wrongful arrests and excessive force, the attorneys at the Stroud Law Firm can help you. We represent those whose constitutional rights have been violated, and we aggressively pursue justice for victims of police misconduct. We are dedicated to helping our clients secure equitable damages for civil rights violations, and have extensive experience in litigating civil rights cases, involving all types of misconduct and fraud by prosecutors and police. Whether you are a victim of police brutality, a wrongful conviction, a police shooting, an unlawful arrest or an unlawful search and seizure in Horn Lake, Olive Branch, Southaven or Desoto County, contact the Stroud Law Firm at (662) 536-5656.