Protecting Your Constitutional Rights
By Stephan Lopez, Esq.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights serve as the bedrock to our democracy. Among the most cherished of the first ten Amendments are our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms. Yet, among the most heavily litigated are the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, unlawful arrests, and excessive use of force; and the Fourteenth Amendment which guarantees no individual shall be denied life, liberty, or property without due process, and equal protection under the law. Despite the “modern-age” we live in, challenges to our constitutional rights abound. More than ever, your constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and, more fundamentally, to equal protection under the law appear to be under siege!
Most of the public does not understand that despite the lofty pronouncements and eloquent prose of our founding fathers, your Constitutional rights are on display in the most ordinary and routine of ways — being stopped by a policeman while walking in your neighborhood, visiting your local grocery store, or simply sitting at your local community park. More often than not, people are deceived into thinking that “unconstitutional” conduct must be some egregious wrongdoing, far beyond their person. As a consequence, they fail to see, or they simply accept violations of their own constitutional rights, in many cases, even when the conduct is outrageous.
Recent incidents around the country, including those in our very own South Florida community, have highlighted the need to educate citizens and residents on the U.S. Constitution and more specifically, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights so vital to our freedom. Individuals need to know their rights can be protected through legal action. Fundamentally, the legal process starts with basic inquiries, such as: Can you be “stopped and frisked” without reasonable suspicion that you are engaging in criminal behavior or just engaged in criminal behavior? Can you be subjected to a search without probable cause? Can anyone acting under color of authority, meaning on behalf of a “state actor” (such as a policeman) act to limit your freedoms without reasonable suspicion or “probable cause?” Can they unreasonably “stop-and-frisk” you? Search and seize your property? Ultimately, arrest you? While the obvious answer is “no,” recent reports from around the country suggest more often than not, they do! Unconstitutional stop-and-frisks, searches, seizures, and arrests are occurring in ways — some minor, some in dramatic fashion — that make clear that probable cause is an afterthought. Even applying a less rigorous standard — reasonable, articulable suspicion — reveals how constitutional rights are routinely violated.
It is in this context that citizens and residents should be aware that a federal law, 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, exists permitting individuals to institute private lawsuits to recover damages for violations of federal constitutional rights. A “1983 Claim,” provides legal remedies addressing grievances and recovering damages for the curtailment of a person’s constitutionally protected freedoms. In addition, a person may seek injunctive relief as a way of preventing further constitutional violations by those acting under “color of authority.”
The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as well as equal protection under the law once again appears to be fraught with challenges. Understanding and protecting your constitutional rights has never been more important.
The Stephan Lopez Law Firm can assist you in protecting your constitutional rights. We can review the circumstances that led to violations of your constitutional rights and assess whether you have a legal claim sufficient to receive compensatory and injunctive relief from the courts. If the circumstances reveal a bona fide case, we can aggressively litigate your case to seek redress. Because … YOU too deserve a passionate voice to help you defend your property and/or preserve your rights!
Stephan Lopez is a former police officer and Miami-Dade prosecutor that provides legal representation that is both multi-faceted and knowledgeable to clients facing serious criminal charges. Specifically, he focuses and assists clients in the areas of Criminal Defense, Civil Rights Claims, Family Law, Commercial and Civil Litigation, Business Counseling, Labor & Employment Law.
The firm also provides representation in the areas of: Residential Landlord-Tenant Litigation, Commercial Landlord-Tenant Litigation, Call us for a FREE consultation at (305) 792-8221. Se Habla Español.
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We are located at 10691 N. Kendall Dr. Suite 212 Miami, FL 33176 but have satellite offices in Little Havana and in Broward County.
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