Nevada civil rights laws allow people denied of their government-protected rights to bring a lawsuit against the perpetrators. A common reason for a civil rights lawsuit is police misconduct. Plaintiffs can ask for both monetary damages to cover their losses as well as injunctive relief, such as reforming police procedures.
Below our Nevada civil rights lawyers discuss and provide links to our in-depth articles concerning:
- 1. What are civil rights?
- 2. Can I sue if the police violated my civil rights?
- 3. What are my remedies?
Also see our article on employment discrimination laws on how people can file claims with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
1. What are civil rights?
Civil rights are freedoms that the federal, state, and local government protects. The U.S. Constitution guarantees such civil rights as:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment
- Right to due process
- Right to an attorney
- Right to bear arms
Meanwhile, the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex, which now includes gender identity and sexual orientation. More recent legislation also forbids age discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).1
Note that federal law preempts Nevada law whenever they conflict. But state law can offer more extensive protections than federal law.
2. Can I sue if the police violated my civil rights?
Yes. Police misconduct victims may bring a 1983 claim against state or local officers, the police department, and the county or town. (If a federal officer committed the misconduct, then the victim would instead bring something called a Bivens lawsuit.)
There are two key elements to 1983 claims:
- The police acted under color of law. In other words, the offending officers were on duty when committing the misconduct. They were not acting as private citizens.
- The police did not have qualified immunity. Police do not have to pay money damages if either 1) they did not violate the plaintiff’s constitutional rights, or 2) any right they violated was not “clearly established.”1
Common types of civil rights violations by law enforcement include racial profiling and using excessive force, such as:
3. What are my remedies?
Potential remedies from 1983 claims in the state of Nevada include:
- An injunction where the court orders the police to make changes to prevent more misconduct,
- Compensatory damages, to pay for the plaintiff’s losses, such as doctor’s bills, pain and suffering, and lost earnings,
- Punitive damages, to punish the defendants for their behavior, and
- Attorney’s fees
Predictably, the police department and government have the means to pay out much more than the individual officers.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 United States Code § 1983; Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982).