Our Bill of Rights in the USA
The Flag of the United States
The Bill of Rights Document
"THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution."
The quote is part of the preamble to the Bill of Rights document that indicates that the States and the Congress have the right to amend the Constitution of the United States of America.
They are stating that our government recognizes that it has a duty to clarify and institute regulations regarding our rights as citizens and as human beings.
First Amendment - Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly and Petitions
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
As writers, journalists and even as HubPages authors, this amendment affects us the most. This is the "big one"!
Many hubbers write about religion. They use their free speech rights to do so. This means that we are free to criticize any religion we want to. We are free, in this country, to say and write whatever we feel like saying and writing.
We are also free to say and write and use words that are considered inflammatory, insulting, rude and socially unacceptable. You are free to rebut those words.
We are also free to assemble a group of like-minded people and petition our government or other groups to try to sway their opinions about things.
The members of the Press are given special dispensations for saying and writing about whatever they want to say and write about and to protect their sources from freedom of speech persecution.
Second Amendment - The Military and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Wow! This one simple sentence continues to this day to be a huge source of aggravation and debate.
There is no question that a country needs a military force. We must defend ourselves against those that seek to invade and take by force our land and homes. This is our right as a nation. It would be lovely if we didn't have to do this, but until evolution brings us to a more peaceful nature, we must have a protective military. No one truly debates this.
As for each and every one of us having the right to bear arms, well that is just a huge can of worms. Just because we have the right to do so, doesn't mean we should all go out and buy guns.
Indeed this is currently a highly regulated area that continues to be misconstrued each and every day. People get really radical about it and lie about it and cause untold amount of grief. Why can't we all just get along?
Third Amendment - The Homeowners Right to Quarter the Military
"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
Well, this is one you don't really hear about! Apparently, we have the right to refuse a bed to the military during times of peace, and must be legally compelled to do so in times of war.
This sets up the stage for the huge budget of the military! They have the right to build quarters for the fighting soldiers in both peacetime and wartime. Whew! At least we only have to pay outrageous taxes because of this one.
Fourth Amendment - Unlawful Search and Seizure
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
This human right has apparently just gone the way of the dinosaurs. It only applies to the rich folks these days. Cops have found a way around this edict in many ways.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that in some cases it is perfectly all right to search and seize without a warrant.
People, themselves, often relinquish their right to unlawful search and seizures by actually consenting to be searched without probable cause.
Whenever a cop stops you on the side of the road, they can pretty much get away with anything these days. Your best bet is to keep your mouth shut if approached by a police officer and never, ever consent to a search without a properly executed warrant!
Stand up for your rights and those of every other citizen.
Fifth Amendment - Grand Jury, Military Court, Double Jeopardy, Self Incrimination, Property Seizure
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
These amendments just keep getting longer and wordier, right? The government was really trying to cover all bases here. Cases that violated these rights were already under scrutinization and laws had to be made.
Still, this amendment looks like it was tailor made for rich people. The average Joe on the street doesn't even have much in the way of property that can be protected by this right.
It's also easy to get people to testify against themselves! The cops do it all the time. They twist and turn whatever you may say into an indictment against you. That's why the Miranda warning was sent down by the Supreme Court.
If you are ever arrested, be sure to exercise this very important right!
Sixth Amendment - Speedy Trials, Habeas Corpus, Witness Confrontation, Subpoenas, Right to Counsel
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."
I'll have to say that this right seems to have held up pretty well over time. It still has not prevented our jails from becoming the most crowded and overused institutions in the world.
I wonder if our law schools just do not instill on young law students the responsibility that they have to defend the poor and those unable to defend themselves.
Public defenders tend to be seen as the "bottom of the barrel" lawyers. Rich people get the cream of the crop, of course.
Of course, citizens need to do their civic duty and respond to the call for jury selections and witnesses. But population being the overwhelming burden that it is, our rights are just going to get trampled on by the sheer weight of numbers.
Seventh Amendment - The Right to a Trial by a Jury
"In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."
Did you notice the 'double jeopardy' clause? If you are tried by a jury and the facts are ruled on by a jury, A retrial should not be allowed.
I think this is mostly applied as, "The judgement of the court is final". But I'm no scholar of constitutional law. Correct me if I am wrong about this one.
Eighth Amendment - The Cruel and Unusual Thing
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
This amendment is mostly used in the 'cruel and unusual' defense. A very high bail amount would be considered unusual. An excessive fine would be cruel. Unjust imprisonment, up to and including, the death penalty, would definitely be considered cruel by most people.
There is no way to reverse death, if that penalty is unfairly applied. Most people in this country apparently do not support the death penalty. So this amendment is almost always in the spotlight.
Ninth Amendment - The Catch-22 Amendment
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
Because every human right could never be listed or even explained, this amendment was thrown in as a 'catch-all' kind of thing.
Basically, it states, that just because it isn't listed and numbered, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. They couldn't possibly think of Everything, right?
Tenth Amendment - Separation of State and Federal
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
It would be very hard to designate every State's Rights versus every Federal Right, but this little amendment attempts to cover that situation in a rather broad statement.
This amendment is a very important one when it comes to constitutional law. But basically, if the Federal government makes a law, the individual states may or may not incorporate that law. The people of each state may or may not have a say in the ratification of said Federal laws.
Yes, most of this amendment is gobbledy gook speak for the right hand may or may not know what the left hand is doing.