Civil liberties protect you from certain government actions. This is in contrast to civil rights, which are protections offered by the government. While civil rights are rights or powers people can exercise under civil law, such as the right to be free from discrimination based on gender or race, civil liberties limit what the government can do to you.
In the U.S., certain civil liberties are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Constitution. These constitutional rights include the First Amendment right to free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. The Fourteenth Amendment also provides the right to due process of law. Most civil rights laws, in contrast, are created by the United States government through case law or legislation passed by Congress.
This article discusses various categories of civil liberties, beginning with rights related to criminal justice. The article also addresses Miranda rights, prisoners' rights, parental rights, and property owners' rights. See FindLaw's Civil Rights Basics section to learn more about the related concept of civil rights.
Rights Related to Criminal Justice and Criminal Cases
Below are links to articles discussing civil rights in the criminal justice system context. Click on any of the links to learn more.
- Your Rights in the Criminal Justice System - FindLaw's Criminal Rights section has information about Fourth Amendment search and seizure laws, the right to counsel, Miranda rights, and more. You have the right to be free from unreasonable searches.
- Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice - FindLaw's Juvenile Justice section includes information on the types of juvenile crime and details about juvenile court procedures.
- Your Auto and the Police: Traffic Stops - FindLaw's Traffic Stops section contains articles about getting pulled over by the police and the legality of vehicle searches.
- Police Misconduct and Civil Rights - This section provides an introduction to police misconduct and how to respond to police violations of civil rights. This section includes definitions of excessive force and other types of misconduct.
The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona provides the famous Miranda rights. Miranda rights include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney during an interrogation by law enforcement. These rights stem from Fifth Amendment protections. In addition, you have the right to a court-appointed attorney if you can't afford counsel.
Prisoners have certain rights guaranteed to them under the United States Constitution, even though they also lose some freedoms and rights. As an example of a guaranteed right, under the Eighth Amendment prisoners are entitled to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
Inmates also retain some of their First Amendment freedom of speech rights. However, this is only true to the extent that these rights don't interfere with the prison system's objectives.
Civil liberties include the right to marry and have a family without interference. There are numerous laws to protect these civil liberties. One example is the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Property Owners' Rights
Under eminent domain powers, the federal government may take private land for public use. However, property owners are entitled to compensation for any land taken for public use. This is a civil liberty protection.
More Civil Liberties Topics
Click on any of the links below to learn about additional civil liberties.
- Freedom of expression and religion under the First Amendment
- Asylum seekers and refugees have the right to enter and stay in the U.S. with the opportunity to gain legal resident status
- Voting Rights
Schedule a Consultation With a Civil Rights Attorney
Talk to an attorney if you suspect a civil liberties or civil rights violation. An experienced civil rights attorney knows the differences between civil rights and civil liberties and can help you with a possible claim. Protect your basic rights as a citizen of the United States.
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