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Federal Civil Rights Statutes

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 249 - Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 - Conspiracy Against Rights

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 - Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 245 - Federally Protected Activities

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 247 - Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 248 - Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 844(h) - Federal Explosives Control Statute

Title 42, U.S.C., Section 3631 - Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing

Title 42, U.S.C., Section 14141 - Pattern and Practice

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 249
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act

This statute makes it unlawful to willfully cause bodily injury—or attempting to do so with fire, firearm, or other dangerous weapon—when 1) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person, or 2) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person and the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.

The law also provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to help them to more effectively investigate, prosecute, and prevent hate crimes.

The law provides for a maximum 10–year prison term, unless death (or attempts to kill) results from the offense, or unless the offense includes kidnapping or attempted kidnapping, or aggravated sexual abuse or attempted aggravated sexual abuse. For offenses not resulting in death, there is a seven–year statute of limitations. For offenses resulting in death, there is no statute of limitations.

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Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241
Conspiracy Against Rights

This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).

It further makes it unlawful for two or more persons to go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another with the intent to prevent or hinder his/her free exercise or enjoyment of any rights so secured.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to ten years, or both; and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years, or for life, or may be sentenced to death.

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Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.

Acts under "color of any law" include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under "color of any law," the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both, and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

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Title 18, U.S.C., Section 245
Federally Protected Activities

1) This statute prohibits willful injury, intimidation, or interference, or attempt to do so, by force or threat of force of any person or class of persons because of their activity as:


a) A voter, or person qualifying to vote...;

b) a participant in any benefit, service, privilege, program, facility, or activity provided or administered by the United States;

c) an applicant for federal employment or an employee by the federal government;

d) a juror or prospective juror in federal court; and

e) a participant in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

2) Prohibits willful injury, intimidation, or interference or attempt to do so, by force or threat of force of any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin and because of his/her activity as:

a) A student or applicant for admission to any public school or public college;

b) a participant in any benefit, service, privilege, program, facility, or activity provided or administered by a state or local government;

c) an applicant for private or state employment, private or state employee; a member or applicant for membership in any labor organization or hiring hall; or an applicant for employment through any employment agency, labor organization or hiring hall;

d) a juror or prospective juror in state court;

e) a traveler or user of any facility of interstate commerce or common carrier; or

f) a patron of any public accommodation, including hotels, motels, restaurants, lunchrooms, bars, gas stations, theaters...or any other establishment which serves the public and which is principally engaged in selling food or beverages for consumption on the premises.

3) Prohibits interference by force or threat of force against any person because he/she is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or class of persons from participating or affording others the opportunity or protection to so participate, or lawfully aiding or encouraging other persons to participate in any of the benefits or activities listed in items (1) and (2), above without discrimination as to race, color, religion, or national origin.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both, and if death results or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be subject to imprisonment for any term of years or for life or may be sentenced to death.

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Title 18, U.S.C., Section 247
Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996

Prohibits (1) intentional defacement, damage, or destruction of any religious real property, because of the religious, racial, or ethnic characteristics of that property, or (2) intentional obstruction by force or threat of force, or attempts to obstruct any person in the enjoyment of that person's free exercise of religious beliefs. If the intent of the crime is motivated for reasons of religious animosity, it must be proven that the religious real property has a sufficient connection with interstate or foreign commerce. However, if the intent of the crime is racially motivated, there is no requirement to satisfy the interstate or foreign commerce clause.

Punishment varies from one year imprisonment and a fine or both, and if bodily injury results to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties as a direct or proximate result of conduct prohibited by this section, and the violation is by means of fire or an explosive, a fine under this title or imprisonment of not more than forty years or both; or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined in accordance with this title and imprisonment for up to twenty years, or both, and if death results or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined in accordance with this title and imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

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Title 18, U.S.C., Section 248
Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act

This statute prohibits (1) the use of force or threat of force or physical obstruction, to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person or any class of persons from obtaining or providing reproductive health services; (2) the use of force or threat of force or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, or interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person lawfully exercising or seeking to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship; or (3) intentionally damages or destroys the property of a facility, or attempts to do so, because such facility provides reproductive health services or intentionally damages or destroys the property of a place of religious worship. This statute does not apply to speech or expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. Non obstructive demonstrations are legal.

Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment for an offense involving exclusively a nonviolent physical obstruction, the fine shall be not more than $10,000 and the length of imprisonment shall be up to six months, or both, for the first offense: and the fine shall, notwithstanding section 3571, be up to $25,000 and the length of imprisonment shall be not more than 18 months, or both, for a subsequent offense; and if bodily injury results, the length of imprisonment shall be up to ten years, and if death results, it shall be for any term of years or for life.


Title 18, U.S.C., Section 844(h)
Federal Explosives Control Statute

Whoever (1) uses fire or an explosive to commit any felony which may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, or (2) carries an explosive during the commission of any felony which may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, including a felony which provides for an enhanced punishment if committed by the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon or device shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such felony, be sentenced to imprisonment for five years but not more than 15 years. In the case of a second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, such persons shall be sentenced to imprisonment for ten years but not more than 25 years.

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Title 42, U.S.C., Section 3631
Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing

This statute makes it unlawful for any individual(s), by the use of force or threatened use of force, to injure, intimidate, or interfere with (or attempt to injure, intimidate, or interfere with), any person's housing rights because of that person's race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. Among those housing rights enumerated in the statute are:
  • The sale, purchase, or renting of a dwelling;
  • the occupation of a dwelling;
  • the financing of a dwelling;
  • contracting or negotiating for any of the rights enumerated above.
  • applying for or participating in any service, organization, or facility relating to the sale or rental of dwellings.

This statute also makes it unlawful by the use of force or threatened use of force, to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person who is assisting an individual or class of persons in the exercise of their housing rights.

Punishment varies from a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results, shall be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned up to ten years, or both, and if death results, shall be subject to imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

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Title 42, U.S.C., Section 14141
Pattern and Practice

This civil statute was a provision within the Crime Control Act of 1994 and makes it unlawful for any governmental authority, or agent thereof, or any person acting on behalf of a governmental authority, to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers or by officials or employees of any governmental agency with responsibility for the administration of juvenile justice or the incarceration of juveniles that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, the Attorney General, for or in the name of the United States, may in a civil action obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the pattern or practice.

Types of misconduct covered include, among other things:

1. Excessive Force
2. Discriminatory Harassment
3. False Arrest
4. Coercive Sexual Conduct
5. Unlawful Stops, Searches, or Arrests

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