One of the oldest of the Civil Rights Division's sections, the Criminal Section enforces laws that date to the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. Originally a part of the Criminal Division, the Criminal Section and its enforcement authority was moved to the Civil Rights Division when the Division was created in 1957. The Criminal Section is the only component of the Civil Rights Division that prosecutes criminal violations, while the remainder of the Division handles civil matters.
The Criminal Section investigates and prosecutes cases throughout the United States involving the interference with liberties and deprivation of rights defined in the Constitution or federal law. Criminal Section prosecutors handle cases involving law enforcement misconduct, including but not limited to, instances of excessive force and sexual misconduct. The Section also prosecutes hate crimes, that is, acts of violence or threats of violence motivated by bias based on statutorily-protected characteristics. Criminal Section prosecutors also handle human trafficking matters, involving compelled or coerced labor, services, or commercial sex acts. Finally, the Criminal Section prosecutes acts of violence or threats of violence that interfere with an individual’s freedom to access reproductive health services or clinics.
The Section’s cases often involve incidents that are of national interest. As experts in the field of criminal civil rights enforcement, Criminal Section prosecutors often partner with the 94 United States Attorney’s Offices throughout the country, as well as with federal and local investigators. While some violations may most appropriately be pursued by the federal government, others can be addressed by state or local jurisdictions. Criminal Section prosecutors therefore often work with state and local prosecutors to determine where a case should be handled. In some instances, Criminal Section prosecutors handle investigations due to actual or perceived conflicts of interest in local jurisdictions. In every case, the ultimate goal of the Criminal Section is to ensure that allegations are thoroughly and fairly investigated, that acts constituting federal criminal civil rights violations are sufficiently remedied, and the rights of the victims vindicated.
Criminal Section News
Cold Case Initiative
In 2006, the FBI began its "Cold Case Initiative" — a comprehensive effort to identify and investigate racially-motivated murders committed decades ago. Pursuant to that Initiative and the passage of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act ("Emmett Till Act"), signed into law on October 8, 2008, the Department and the FBI are working together to address "violations of criminal civil rights statutes . ."