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Understanding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Understanding Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

A young man of African-American descent is walking with three male friends one night in downtown Los Angeles. When leaving a bar around midnight that night, a police car stops the foursome as they are walking down the street. Two police officers leave the vehicle and approach the group. They walk up to the young African-American man and begin asking him questions about his activities and whereabouts that evening. 

His three male companions — who are not African-American — ask the officers why they are speaking only to their friend, and one takes out a cellphone and begins to film the discussion. The two police officers go so far as to threaten the African-American man with arrest if he does not truthfully answer their questions. 

Eventually, the police officers leave, and while they do not arrest the young African-American man, he is left shaken and distraught by the confrontation as he had not done anything wrong. He learns later a young African-American man matching his description robbed a nearby grocery store at gunpoint, wounding two people inside. 

The police officers violated the young African-American man’s rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the two police officers could be charged with police misconduct for racial profiling. 

What is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against any United States citizen due to their race, color, or national origin by any program or activity that receives Federal funds or financial assistance. This includes law enforcement agencies that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). 

As in our example above, because the police officers discriminated against the young African-American man and their police precinct receives federal funding of any type, they could be held in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

If the officers were found in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, DOJ could open an investigation and ask for changes in the procedures and policies of their police precinct. 

Additionally, victims of police misconduct under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have the right to file a formal complaint against the law enforcement agency. And they can also file civil lawsuits against both the police officers and the law enforcement agency. 

How Does California Penalize Hate Crimes?

In the state of California, Penal Code 422.6 relates to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. California PC 422.6 says is it illegal to hinder a person's civil rights because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or nationality. These “hindrances” can include such things as harassment, intimidation, threatening, or causing bodily injury. 

A violation under Penal Code 422.6 is a misdemeanor in California and is punishable by county jail time of up to one year, a fine not exceeding $5,000, and possible probation.

A charge of Penal Code 422.6 can include extra penalties if the defendant committed the crime as part of a hate crime. This could potentially up the charges to a felony charge that include longer jail time in state prison and larger fines. 

If you are a police officer being charged with police misconduct and facing violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or PC 422.6, the best thing you can do is to call a seasoned criminal defense attorney to hear your case and make sure you know all your options. Call the H Law Group of the Los Angeles area today at (213) 370-0404 for a free consultation.

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