An Explanation Of The U.S. Constitution’s Bill Of Rights
If there is ever a great piece of document for a Republic, it’s the United States Constitution. If there ever a document that is warped to mean many things, it’s the Amendments to the United States Constitution. I’d be surprised to ask random people on the street what some of the Amendments are, and I’m 80% positive that they will probably mix up the first 4 of them. Hell, I’m sure the first 2 wouldn’t be mixed up.
Related: American History You Need To Know
Below I will try to explain each of the Amendments so you will be a bit more educated on the rights that are given to you by the U.S. Constitution so you can tell if someone is trying to warp the meaning of them. I’m going
1st Amendment: Guarantees the right to the freedoms of speech, press, and religion. Protects the right to petition the government.
The 1st Amendment is currently being attacked by our current administration. It gives you the protection of free speech. That is usually taken broadly, but it specifically means you can criticize your government without getting arrested, unless you threaten violence, of course. This also means the press and media can report on the government and other newsworthy items without retribution.
The whole “fake news” this is meant by the administration to blatantly discredit the press because they’re currently at war with the press. This is usually where a dictator starts by shutting down the press. It’s getting scary out there.
Now, freedom of religion. You’ll hear a lot about how America is a Christian nation. It isn’t. It’s a nation of many religions, and this Amendment guarantees you to practice your religion. That’s one of the reasons so many immigrants came here to escape persecution from being denied their practice.
2nd Amendment: Guarantees the people’s right to own and bear arms for their defense.
Now, this one is always under a huge debate. Here’s the exact wording:
“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.”
Notice how it doesn’t say you can go and buy 50 AR-15’s? It stresses a well regulated militia. The “right to bear arms” part has given some sort of blanket statement by allowing every American to buy guns to “protect” their family. You never really hear about the militia part much when a shooting happens. That’s why it’s so controversial. When this was written, it was written a couple hundred years ago when the founders had no clue about the technology and firepower was readily available at more locations that McDonald’s.
3rd Amendment: Citizens cannot be forced to quarter soldiers during times of peace.
A no brainer. Soldiers can’t come into your home and live there during peace times. It’s considered one of the least controversial Amendments. Now, if the homeowner gives permission to allow soldiers to stay at their home, that’s allowed.
4th Amendment: Citizens cannot be forced to subject themselves to seizure and search without a search warrant and probable cause.
Basically, authorities can’t walk into your house without probable cause. If there is significant cause, authorities will have to have enough evidence to get a warrant from a judge. If you’ve ever watch a TV show where the authorities are pissed they can’t just go in, it’s because of this Amendment that protects you. However, that doesn’t mean that this Amendment isn’t curtailed by other laws passed since.
5th Amendment: Prohibits abuse of governmental authority in legal procedures. Establishes rules for indictment by eminent domain and grand jury. Guarantees the due process rights. Protects citizens from self-incrimination and double jeopardy.
Have you ever seen someone “Plead the Fifth” is thousands of TV shows and movies? That’s the right for them not to self-incriminate themselves. What about when someone is charged for murder and wins? They can’t be charged for/with that same crime again.
“I have my rights!” the man yelled when asking for a lawyer.
Yes, you do, and it’s all that’s thanks to this incredible Amendment and this next one.
6th Amendment: Guarantees fair and speedy jury trial and the rights to know the accusation, the accuser, and to find counsel and witnesses.
I’ve served on one jury trial for a CRAZY attempted murder by some mistress trying to kill the husband’s wife and kids. I was surprised that it only lasted 3 days.
Here are the rights of the defendant as provided by the 6th Amendment:
- to a speedy and public trial
- to trial by an impartial jury
- to be informed of criminal charges
- to confront witnesses
- to compel witnesses to appear in court
- to assistance of counsel
In 1963, a court ruled that a defendant has the right to counsel in all felony prosecutions at the state and federal levels. It can sometimes be a bummer when you’re dirt poor and your public defender is worthless. That’s probably why so many people are in jail for a joint, while rich people who can afford the best get off on charges 100 times as bad.
7th Amendment: Reserves individuals’ rights to jury trial depending on the civil case, and cases already examined by not be re-opened by another court.
If a claim exceeds $20, a jury will be brought in to the case. I’m not even kidding: “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.” This is never really applied to by the states, but to federal civil courts.
8th Amendment: Forbids exorbitant bails and fines and punishment that is unusual or cruel.
This one is pretty straight forward, but has gone through a lot of back and forth over the past 50 years. A lot to do with executions, poor prison conditions, and ridiculously high fines on top of fines if those fines can’t be paid. You know those stories of someone getting a ticket they can’t afford, then since they can’t afford them, they get fined even more to the point they go to jail for it? Sadly that sort of thing happens all the time. This should continue to be looked at with scrutiny.
9th Amendment: Reserves the rights of citizens which are not specifically mentioned by the U.S. Constitution.
These are meant for laws outside of the Constitution. Roe V. Wade (1973) — a landmark law that wouldn’t make it a for assisting in abortion, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which invalidated a Pennsylvania law that required spousal awareness prior to obtaining an abortion.
10th Amendment: Reserves powers that are not given to the U.S. government under the Constitution, nor prohibited to a State of the U.S., to the people and the States.
Simply put, the 10th Amendment states that any power not given to the federal government will be given to the people or to the states. There is controversy about issues like this, especially when it comes to politicians claiming specific rights should be only at the state level even when there is a federal law against it. I’m talking about the legalization of marijuana here, people. It’s federal against the law, but many states have legalized it. Thought they are allowed to grow and sell it because the state says it’s legal, it can’t stop the feds from walking in and taking it all. Check back to the 4th Amendment for that one.
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Jeff Sorensen is an author, writer and occasional comedian living in Detroit, Michigan. You can look for more of his work on The Huffington Post, UPROXX, BGR and by just looking up his name.