Democracy is, fundamentally, an interplay between the rights that are given to us as citizens and the responsibilities that go along with those rights and freedoms. We have the right to free speech as American citizens, and the responsibility to use that freedom responsibly. What constitutes the appropriate exercise of free speech is a complex question that sometimes ends up being addressed by juries or judges, but exploration of the limits of our freedoms seems to be an essential part of the democratic process as well.
When we, as American citizens, are stopped by the police we are also given certain rights by law that many people are not aware of. These rights also imply certain responsibilities. We have the right to leave a situation if we are not under arrest, and the responsibility to calmly walk away. We retain the right to have a lawyer, and the responsibility to ask for one immediately. We have the right to remain silent, and the responsibility to inform law enforcement officials of that choice out loud.
Civil rights law can address those situations where police misconduct is alleged, those situations where a person states that they have been wrongly accused of a crime by law enforcement, and other situations that can occur when a person is imprisoned. A police brutality lawyer or a prison abuse lawyer should be able to help their clients decide how to proceed if they have been a victim of excessive force.
A lawyer with experience in civil rights law should be able to offer legal consultation to clients who have been injured in altercations with law enforcement. In many areas of the country, body cameras and cameras that are mounted on police vehicles are being used to capture interactions with citizens and to prosecute law-breakers, even if they are law enforcement professionals. With pressure mounting across the country for citizens to be calmer and more responsible in their interactions with police and prison guards, the pressure on law enforcement to prosecute lawbreakers in their own ranks will continue to increase as well.
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