Civil Rights and Police Misconduct

Freedom from unfair discrimination is a civil right in Michigan.  Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act at Michigan Compiled Laws 37.2102.  Michigan law recognizes four categories of protected activity:

  1. The opportunity to obtain employment.

  2. The opportunity to obtain housing.

  3. Full and equal utilization of public accommodations.

  4. Full and equal utilization of educational institutions.

For each category of activity, discrimination based on specified characteristics is prohibited.  Those characteristics are:

  1. Religion.

  2. Race.

  3. Color.

  4. National origin.

  5. Age.

  6. Sex.

  7. Height.

  8. Weight.

  9. Familial status.

  10. Marital status.

Additionally, Michigan guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, Michigan Compiled Laws at 37.1101.  Opportunities to obtain employment, housing, full and equal utilization of public accommodations and educational facilities, without discrimination based on a disability, is guaranteed.  MCL 37.1102.  “Disability” encompasses both physical and mental disorders.  MCL 37.1103.

These laws are powerful tools against unfair discrimination.  They have been successfully employed to protect renters and homebuyers from racial discrimination by landlords, sellers, and real estate salespersons; to protect employees from sexual harassment and quid pro quo demands for sex; to eliminate Jim Crow laws and their vestiges; and to level the playing field for all seeking employment, as well as to advance in that employment.

Federal laws have also been enacted that provide similar guarantees, but there are significant differences between federal and state laws: different burdens of proof and different remedies.  A skilled employment lawyer is essential to guide you through the labyrinth of laws to determine the best course of action.

The United States Constitution also guarantees fundamental rights.  The Fourth Amendment prohibits police from entering a dwelling without a warrant.  They must first go to a judge and get a warrant.  The only exception is an emergency that does not allow sufficient time to get a warrant, such as a hot pursuit or a reasonable belief someone in the dwelling is in dire need of assistance.

A common problem is police who raid the wrong dwelling: one not specified in their search warrant.  They have a duty to retreat as soon as they know or should know they are in the wrong dwelling.  Often they do not.

Excessive force during an arrest is also a violation of the Constitution.  The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of persons “to be secure in their persons… against unreasonable… seizures…” and this means police cannot use excessive force.  Graham v. Connor (United States Supreme Court). 

Police misconduct/civil rights cases require immediate legal attention to gather and preserve evidence, take actions within tight deadlines, and prepare the case for settlement or trial.  Varjabedian Attorneys is very experienced in this area of the law and charges no fee unless and until we win.