The Bill of Rights is an important document that protects your rights as an American. It is very important because it all Americans various rights to live as free individuals.
The Bill of Rights refers to the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution. In 1789, James Madison presented a series of articles which were known as Constitutional Amendments. On September 25, 1789, the U.S. Congress proposed 12 amendments of the Constitution to the existing state legislatures at the time. The first two proposed amendments were not approved; however, articles 3-12 were properly approved so they became the first ten amendments.
After the U.S. Constitution was drafted, some people debated that the Constitution would leave the door open for tyranny by the federal government. In response, a legal process was outlined to protect the rights of the individual citizen. The result was the Bill of Rights, which contains various protections for citizens.
The Bill of Rights contains several different provisions that address many basic rights and freedoms for citizens. Many of these contain principles that later influenced the formation of other laws and statutes. The amendments also contain various procedural protections related to legal processes.
The main points of the amendments in the Bill of Rights are summarized below:
- First Amendment: The Congress shall not make any laws which prevent the free exercise of religion, freedom of the press or speech or right to assemble peacefully, and claim justice against any grievances. In America, you have the right to speak freely, choose your religion, assemble peacefully, publish freely, and petition the government for various issues.
- Second Amendment: To ensure state and private security, citizens have the right to keep arms. The amendment protects the basic rights of Americans to carry guns and other firearms.
- Third Amendment: During times of peace, a military soldier cannot ask for shelter in any home without the owner’s consent. Homeowners cannot be forced to feed and provide housing for soldiers.
- Fourth Amendment: There shall not be any violation of the people’s right to be safe in their houses against searches which are unreasonable. The government has no right to take your possessions without a valid warrant, or without good reason.
- Fifth Amendment: No American citizen can be compelled to answer for a capital crime other than cases of public danger or war. This particular amendment protects the rights of the individual so they cannot be tried twice for the same crime and private property which has been taken has to be compensated. Also, you cannot be forced to testify against your interests in a court of law.
- Sixth Amendment: The accused has the right to obtain public trial. You have the right to confront your witnesses and you must be allowed to get legal assistance in the form of a lawyer.
- Seventh Amendment: In cases where a controversy of common law exceeds $20, there will be the right to a trial by jury in a federal civil court.
- Eight Amendment: There shall not be a requirement for excessive bail, cruel punishment or excessive fines imposed on a defendant in a criminal trial. This amendment ensures that all trials are fair.
- Ninth Amendment: For those rights which are not specifically included in the Bill of Rights, it does not mean that they can be violated.
- Tenth Amendment: All powers that are not delegated by the U.S. Constitution shall be reserved to the states or to the people in general.
As mentioned, the Bill of Rights has influenced many laws and legal concepts to this day. Some common legal issues that are connected with or influenced by the Bill of Rights include:
- Freedom of Speech: Many of the freedoms we enjoy today with regard to speech were first laid down in the Bill of Rights. This includes freedoms associated with the press, as well as rights to express oneself without fear of persecution.
- Gun Rights: The right to bear arms in order to protect oneself and one’s home is an important right for many American citizens. While each state (and sometimes city) has its own set of gun laws and gun control policies, these basic rights stem from the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
- Double Jeopardy Laws: Double jeopardy laws refer to protections extended to citizens, where they cannot be tried twice for the same crime. This prevents a person from receiving unnecessary punishments for crimes that they are already convicted for. It is an important part of our criminal system and was initiated largely through the Bill of Rights.
- Right to an Attorney: In any criminal trial, the defendant (the person being accused) has the right to be represented by an attorney, as well as the right to have that attorney present at trial. In most cases, if the person cannot afford an attorney, the state will provide them with one at no cost. Again, this type of procedural protection has its roots in the Bill of Rights.
If you have any legal questions, or if you feel that your constitutional rights have been violated in any way, you may need to seek legal recourse. A constitutional law attorney in your area can provide you with legal advice and representation and can ensure that your rights are secured under U.S. laws.
Also, be prepared to contact public organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as they often take on civil rights violations and advocate for those who have been denied.