PLEASE NOTE: In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus, we have established a COVID-19 virtual hotline at firstname.lastname@example.org. This virtual hotline is designed to help inform us about emerging civil liberties and civil rights concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus in the Commonwealth. The hotline will not, however, serve as a replacement for our Legal Intake process. By sharing information with us using the hotline email address, it is important to note that the information will not be kept confidential or privileged, and we may use this information to inform our advocacy and communications efforts during this time. If you are still interested in sharing your concerns with us, please email the hotline directly at email@example.com.
How to Get Legal Help
Due to the COVID-19 virus, the ACLU of Virginia is currently operating remotely and with limited capacity. We are unable to respond to the vast majority of requests for legal assistance at this time. If you are seeking legal assistance, we encourage you to review the ACLU of Virginia’s suggested Resource Contact List for information on how to get legal help. If you file a request for assistance through our intake process, please do not expect a response because we cannot guarantee one at this time. It is important that you immediately seek legal assistance elsewhere as well.
If you wish to fill out an online intake form – with the understanding that you are unlikely to receive a response – please complete this online form. We are unable to process intakes sent to us by U.S. Mail at this time.
If you are seeking assistance for a problem that occurred in another state, please click here for a national directory of ACLU offices.
Please read the following information carefully to find out how the ACLU of Virginia considers new cases.
How Do We Choose Cases?
The ACLU of Virginia generally files cases that affect the civil liberties or civil rights of a number of Virginians. The basic questions we ask when reviewing a potential case are:
- Is this a significant civil liberties or civil rights issue?
- What effect will this case have on people in addition to our client?
What Are Civil Liberties and Civil Rights?
The civil liberties and civil rights we seek to protect include:
- Freedom of Expression and Association: These include freedom of speech and press, the right to assemble for protests or rallies, and the right to associate with whom you choose.
- Freedom of Religion: This includes both the right of individuals to practice the religion of their choice and the separation of church and state.
- Equality Under the Law: The right to equal treatment regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, or other such classification. These rights apply to such places as the voting booth, the classroom, the workplace and the courts.
- Due Process of Law: The right to be treated fairly when facing criminal charges or other serious accusations that can result in such penalties as loss of employment, exclusion from school, denial of housing, or cut-off of public benefits.
- The Right to Privacy: The right to a guaranteed zone of personal privacy and autonomy which cannot be penetrated by the government or by other institutions, like employers, with substantial influence over an individual's rights.
- Reproductive Freedom: The right to decide whether or not to have a child, including the right to access contraception and abortion without interference from the government.
- Other civil liberties: Other civil liberties include the right to vote, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
What Cases Affect Others?
Lawsuits can affect a large number of people in two ways. A government policy or practice may be challenged which has a direct impact on many people. Second, a lawsuit brought on behalf of one person can have a larger impact on others in the long run when it establishes or expands legal protections.
Types of Cases the ACLU of Virginia Generally CANNOT Accept
There are some kinds of cases that the ACLU of Virginia generally does not take, although we will make exceptions when an important constitutional right is at stake. If your complaint falls into one of the categories listed here, please see our Resource Contact list.
We generally do not take the following types of cases:
- You were fired from your job without a good reason.
- You are involved in a domestic dispute, such as a divorce or custody issue.
- You were denied benefits such as unemployment or workmen's compensation.
- You have a complaint about your attorney.
- You were charged with a criminal violation.
Why the ACLU Turns Down Cases That Fall Within Our Guidelines
There are many cases and problems of unfairness and injustice which the ACLU of Virginia is simply unable to handle. With a small staff and hundreds of requests for help each month, we cannot accept many of the cases that fall within our guidelines discussed above. We must select those cases which we believe will have the greatest impact on protecting civil liberties and civil rights.
Can the ACLU Advise Me About My Case?
If we do not accept your case, the ACLU of Virginia staff CANNOT offer you legal advice or provide other types of assistance, such as reviewing your papers or conducting legal research. This policy allows us to direct the necessary resources to those cases that we do accept.
How to Request Assistance Online
To request assistance online, please complete this online form. Please understand that you are unlikely to receive a response at this time.
Important Note About Deadlines
All legal claims have time deadlines. The deadlines may be different depending on who violated your rights and what rights were violated. For some kinds of violations, you may need to file a claim with a government agency before you can sue (such as the EEOC). These agencies usually have their own time deadlines. The ACLU cannot give you advice about the deadlines that apply to your case. To protect your rights, please consult with an attorney promptly to find out what deadlines apply in your situation.