"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; 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.
- Prisoners' Rights and Resources - FindLaw's Prisoners' Rights section includes an overview on the rights of institutionalized persons; what prisoners should know about Social Security; and more.
- Family and Medical Leave - FindLaw's Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) section contains everything you need to understand your rights and obligations under federal law.
- Adoption and Parenting When You're Lesbian or Gay - What LGBT individuals need to know before becoming a parent, with a focus on adoption and the challenges of co-parenting.
Property Owners' Rights:
- Eminent Domain - FindLaw's Eminent Domain section will help you better understand how the government may take land for public use.
- How the Government Takes Private Property - Overview of the process by which the government may take private property in accordance with eminent domain laws.
More Civil Liberties Topics:
- First Amendment Rights: Freedom of Expression and Religion - In-depth explanations of the various interpretations of the First Amendment rights to religion and expression.
- Medical Patients' Rights: Living Wills and Healthcare Power of Attorney - FindLaw's Health Care Power of Attorney Section includes articles on living wills; helping a loved one create a power of attorney; and more.
- Asylum Seekers and Refugees - FindLaw's Asylum Refugee section covers various issues pertaining to the asylum process and the rights of refugees.
- Voters and Voting Rights - FindLaw's Voting Rights section includes historical information about voter suppression and the history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.