Civil Rights Violations

The Massachusetts Civil Rights Act is located in Chapter 265 Section 37 of the General Laws. To convict a defendant of a civil rights violation, the prosecutor will have to prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The victim was exercising a Constitutional privilege or right or one protected by federal or Massachusetts law. It does not matter whether or not the victim knew that he or she was exercising or enjoying a right protected by the law.

  2. The defendant intimidated, threatened, oppressed, injured, or interfered with the victim’s exercise or enjoyment or that legal right or privilege. Generally, this means that the defendant prevented the victim from the full benefit of the right or privilege. It is not necessary to prove that the defendant totally prevented the victim from the full and free benefit as long as he hampered the victim in exercising it. “Intimidate” means placing another person in fear. To “threaten” means to express one’s intent to harm another person or another’s property. To “oppress” means to abusively use power. “Interfere with” means meddling in another person’s affairs.

  3. In doing so, the defendant used forced or threatened to use force. A specific intent to interfere with the other person’s rights is required. “Force” means physical force against a person or against property. The amount of force used is irrelevant. Where a “threat of force” is involved, the person threatened must have am objectively reasonable belief that the person making the threat had the ability to carry it out.

  4. The defendant acted willfully. “Willfully” means that the defendant had the specific purpose of interfering with the victim’s rights or acted because the victim was exercising a right. The prosecutor does not have to prove that the defendant knew that he was violating the law.


A civil rights violation is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 1 year, or both. If there is a resulting bodily injury, then it is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or by imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney (617) 973 5858

Robert J. Wheeler, Jr. is a Massachusetts attorney who focuses exclusively on criminal defense. He has been doing so for 30 years. With that experience, Attorney Wheeler provides the best possible representation. If you have been charged with a civil rights violation or any other crime in Massachusetts, call the Law Office of Robert J. Wheeler, Jr. at (617) 973 5858.