"Civil liberties" typically include basic rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by law -- either explicitly identified in laws and constitutions, or interpreted through the years by courts and lawmakers. While civil rights are those rights or powers that individuals may exercise under civil law (such as the from discrimination based on one's skin color or gender), civil liberties are freedoms that provide individuals limited protection from the government (such as freedom of the press or the right to assemble).
In the U.S., certain civil liberties are guaranteed by the Constitution. However, some states provide broader protection of individuals' civil liberties than do others. For instance, California law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and education. In many other states, however, LGBT employees may be terminated on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Choose a link from the list below to learn more about different types of civil liberties. See FindLaw's Civil Rights Basics section to learn more about the related concept of civil rights.
Rights Related to Criminal Justice
- Your Rights in the Criminal Justice System - FindLaw's Criminal Rights section has information about search and seizure laws; the right to counsel; Miranda rights (more below); and more.
- Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice - FindLaw's Juvenile Justice section includes sections 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 - Introduction to police misconduct and how to respond to police violations of individuals' civil rights, with definitions of "excessive force" and other types of misconduct.
The landmark U.S. Supreme Court Miranda v. Arizona provide the famous Miranda rights (the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney during a police interrogation) which stem from Fifth Amendment rights. In addition, you also have the right to a court appointed attorney if you cannot afford counsel.
Although prisoners do lose some freedoms and rights, there are certain rights guaranteed to them under the Constitution. Under the Eighth Amendment, incarcerated persons are entitled to be free of "cruel and unusual punishment."
Civil liberties include the right to marry and the right to have a family without interference. There are numerous laws to protect these civil liberties like the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Property Owners' Rights
Under the policy of eminent domain where the government may take private land for public use, the property owner has the right to compensation.
More Civil Liberties Topics
Additional civil liberties include the following rights:
- Freedom of Expression and Religion under the First Amendment.
- Asylum Seekers and Refugees have the right 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
It is difficult to tell whether your civil liberties or your civil rights have been violated. Have you been denied the right to assemble? Are you dealing with the government taking your private property? If you suspect that either your civil liberties or civil rights have been violated, then you should talk to an attorney. An experienced civil rights attorney knows the differences between these important rights and can help you with a possible claim.
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Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.