Bill of Rights
Dr. Ron Wallace
June 04, 2013
Throughout United States history, there have been many changes to the laws society lives by today. There is a process to which laws are made and each amendment undergoes that specific process. Once that process is completed, the end result is what is now known as the United States Constitution. Inside that Constitution is the Bill of Rights which is used as a symbol to mold the rights and privileges of the United States citizens. This paper aims to explore each of the Bill of Rights Amendments with special emphasis on those Amendments related to due process protections and criminal procedures and examine the public’s general understanding of these protections based off the results of a 10 question survey given to selected participants about the Bill of Rights (See Appendix A). The 1st amendment protects your right to believe and practice whatever religious principles you choose and your right to say what you believe, even if it is unpopular or against the will of elected officials. This amendment protects individuals against unlawful allegations and becomes a shield protecting the freedom of press and the freedom of speech. The most noticeable case that protects the previous said freedoms and ensures the regulative power of the 1st Amendment is New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case. According to the case, a public official blaming a person for the defamation is required to prove that the statement in question has been expressed with “actual malice” (Fireside, 1999). In other words, the 1st Amendment allows individuals to realize their freedom to speech in a manner they like. Also, the Amendment protects the citizens from the demand of substantiating their statements with sufficient evidence. The accuser is personally required to prove that the malicious defamation has taken place. The 2nd Amendment or The Right to Bear Arms draws the most controversy. Increasing violence in this country forces citizens and courts to examine this issue regardless of their feelings on the issue. The 2nd Amendment states “A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to bear Arms, shall not be infringed (Dudley, 1994). To a citizen of the United States, this means that state militia and National Guard have the right to bear arms or keep weapons (Dudley, 1994). Many citizens also interpret this as the right to own a gun for protection of their life and personal property. The 3rd Amendment states that the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure “shall not be infringed.” Again, the Amendment is laying down restrictions on what government has power to do. The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution also protects civil rights and liberties in criminal cases. According to the Amendment, each person is entitled to be secure in his or her person, house, effects and papers against unsubstantiated searches and seizures (Dudley, 1994). The exclusive document which makes a search or seizure legal is a warrant. Also, the Amendment prescribes the requirements for warrants. Warrantless searches and seizures are prohibited by the 4th Amendment. Thus, in order to conduct a lawful search and seizure the law enforcement agent must acquire the warrant, a document which is supported by Oath or affirmation and contains the description of the place to be searched as well as the things or persons to be seized (Dudley, 1994). Weeks v. United States case provides the exclusionary rule that the evident that is extracted by unconstitutional methods should be deemed inadmissible in the court of justice and cannot be used as a constituent of the prosecution’s case (Weidner, 2002) The 5th Amendment is concerning the rights of persons in criminal legal proceedings. The Amendment consists of several reciprocal regulations which protect individuals from answering for a capital or an infamous crime unless before a Grand Jury. It prohibits from being twice liable for the same offense or from being a witness against him or herself (Dudley, 1994). The regulative influence of the Amendment extends to every individual irrespective of his or her social status or professional occupation. The significance of the 5th Amendment consists in the fact that it creates the basis for democratic criminal proceedings and protects people against possible abuses of the prosecutor and judiciary. Amendment Six provides the right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury,” to be “informed of the nature and cause of the accusation,” and “to have compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favor, and to have Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” This amendment states that if you are accused of the crime, you must have certain rights reserved which the courts are obliged to uphold. Furthermore, it outlines regulations that they must follow in order to protect those rights, such as obtaining witnesses and providing an impartial jury. The 7th Amendment is very important amendment to the Bill of Rights because it has to do with how the judicial system is run. The 7th Amendment states that any person, who is accused of a crime, where the dollar amount is deemed to be valued at twenty dollars or more, has the legal right to a trial by jury. A jury trial is panels of randomly selected citizens who will listen to the case in question and together jointly reach a decision on whether the defendant in the case is guilty or not guilty of the crime they have been charged with. The amendment also states that no Court can reexamine the facts from the case, because any decision reached by a jury will stand. The 8th Amendment prevents the government from imposing excessive bail or fines and says “cruel or unusual punishments,” shall not be inflicted (Lowi & Ginsburg 2000). In this case, we can see that it takes the power of the government to punish criminals but, at the same time, it adds restrictions to that power. In the 8th Amendment, “cruel and unusual” clause, states that “cruel and unusual punishment” such as torture or lingering death cannot be inflicted on anyone as a form of execution. It is however permissible under the 8th Amendment to execute a convict by means of hanging, shooting, electrocution, and lethal gas. There is still some confusion about what actually constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” There have been several court cases of interest that have challenged and redefined this concept. Francis v. Resweber is one case in Louisiana where a convicted murderer was subject to botched execution, and subsequently argued that a second attempt at execution would be a violation of the 8th Amendment constituting cruel and unusual punishment. The 9th Amendment reads "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." In other words, people retain more rights than the ones listed in the Constitution. The 9th amendment is one the least referred to Amendments in decisions of the Supreme Court. People also say it is one of the most confusing, controversial and misunderstood Amendments to the Constitution. The 9th Amendment has only been used in jurisprudence twice in any meaningful way. The first was Griswold v. Connecticut, and the second was Roe v. Wade. I am of the opinion that most Justices are scared of what the 9th means, and thus ignore it as much as they can. The 10th Amendment is one of the most broadly defined and interpreted amendments. When invoked the 10th Amendment has an interest in almost every aspect of our daily lives, including legalization of medical marijuana, abortion, gun free zones, driver’s licenses, employment legislation, violence against women, and commerce. It can be a powerful tool that can be used to empower the individual states and limit what powers the federal government can exercise over the states and their citizens. The First Amendment is similar to the Tenth in that it guarantees the rights to the people. The First Amendment is general in this guarantee, granting immunity to all American citizens. The Tenth Amendment ensures that the representatives of the people, in both the Federal and State governments are given proper guidelines as to how to rule the rights. After interviewing several professionals in the criminal justice field, the most used and popular of the amendments is the First Amendment. First, the freedom of religion is a guarantee that the government will not establish and or endorse any national religion. It cannot treat any citizen or group in a biased manner based solely on religious preferences or beliefs. Second, freedom of speech is the right for the citizen to speak his or her mind on any subject and in any point of view whether it be or not be in public opinion without punishment as long as it does not harm anyone else. Also the freedom of press was mentioned because it allows for the people to print whatever ideas, thoughts or information they like as long as it does not do harm to others. Therefore, the rights granted in the First Amendment secure that the people are the primary control. The Amendments to the US Constitution are very important instruments in protecting the persons against abuses of governmental agencies and augmenting their Constitutional civil rights and liberties. The Bill of Rights has been one of the corner stones that we as Americans have enjoyed and taken for granted for many years since its creation. The rights granted to us in the Bill of rights are the same right many people of the world are still fighting for even to this very day. We as Americans have become so accustom to having these rights we often take these rights for granted. There is no way of denying its historical significance, if you just stop and try and imagine your life without your freedoms and rights. These freedoms are what makes this country what it is and it also allows the people within the United States to enjoy the freedom dreamed about by the founders of this country as well.
Ginsberg, Benjamin and Theodore J. Lowi 2000. American Government: Freedom and Power Fireside, Harvey (1999). New York Times V. Sullivan: Affirming Freedom of the Press. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc
Dudley, William (1994). The Bill of Rights: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greehaven Press Weidner, D. W. (2002). Creating the Constitution: the people and events that formed the nation. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow
Bill of Rights Survey
1. What was our country’s first constitution called?
2. What does the Bill of Rights consist of?
3. Invoking the 5th Amendment mean an accused man……
4. What does the 8st Amendment protect?
5. Which Amendment talks about Right to Bear Arms?
6. Which Amendment protects religion?
7. What document makes a search and seizure legal?
8. What is Double Jeopardy?
9. Which amendment refers back to Roe V. Wade?
10. Which amendment talks about how our judicial system is run?