In 2017 with everything going on these days its nice to be reminded of what rights you have and don’t have in the USA. People are familiar with freedom of speech of the first amendment, that’s as far as some people will go. But the Bill of Rights includes the first ten amendments of the Constitution, not just the first. By reading this article it can help you to be understand your rights in certain predicaments.
Amendments, by definition, are changes to the Constitution. As explained above, the first 10 of the 27 amendments are the Bill of Rights. Some of these you use everyday and some you didn’t even know you had. The First Amendment states that Congress can never make a law that establishes a religion in America and that you are free to practice any religion or no religion, nor will they make a law restricting what you can say or what the press can say. A wise man told me “you are free to say whatever you like but you aren’t free of the consequences.” The first amendment also states your freedom to PEACEFULLY assemble. There are several examples throughout American history such as the MLK’s sit-ins and bus boycotts, and the 1913 Women’s suffrage parade. Something to keep in mind is that you can say anything you with the limit being the famous opinion of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes when he brought up a point that no one could yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Rhis is an example that means you can say anything that won’t bring immediate danger to others.
The Second Amendment is a famous one, the right to bear arms as well regulated militia. This is a hotly debated topic but let me break it down. An individual may posses a fire arm, whether connected to the militia or not, for the sole purpose of self defense and a with a permit to carry in case of emergency. During the time that the Framers of the Constitution were making the second amendment ”well regulated” meant intense government regulation meaning the militia would be for the security of the state. If you believe it or not there is a fine line between the right to bear arms and a well regulated militia ( refer to 2008 DC v Heller).
The Third Amendment was more of a heat of the moment back in the 1700’s where Great Britain was quartering their redcoats in Americans’ houses . This amendment states no soldier in time of peace or war quarter in any household unless appointed by law. The Fourth Amendment is one especially for the modern day. The right of the people to be secure in their houses,papers and effects against unreasonable searches, meaning that no one may search your house without a state appointed warrant. You should be aware that for your vehicle they only need probable cause, not a warrant. This also means your privacy may not be breached. This now extends to telephone calls , but with Edward Snowden and the NSA’s alleged spying on Americans debacle it’s hard to trust this one.
The Fifth amendment goes along with the prevention of self incrimination and the prevention of your life or liberty being taken away without due process. Pleading the fifth means you don’t want to to say anything that will incriminate yourself, also included in your Miranda rights. The Sixth Amendment is the right that everyone has to a speedy and public trial with a jury of the state or district where the crime was committed and that everyone in the court is informed and that are is no secret courts. The Seventh Amendment is hard to understand but let me try to explain it. The amendment reads “in suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed $20 ($500 today) , 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 U.S, than according to the rules of the common law.” My best explanation would be “it is against U.S law to sett up your own court system. if a person goes to court he/she will always go to court recognized by the government. These courts are city,country,state or national courts.”
The Eighth Amendment states that excessive bail not be required, nor excessive fines, nor cruel and unusual punishments, meaning that the courts cannot charge you with a fine of an impossible number nor can they torture you or any weird punishment. This dates back to the medieval times. The Ninth Amendment is the right that all people have enumerated rights meaning the rights that aren’t on the constitution such as the right to privacy, the right to eat and smaller ones etc.The Tenth Amendment kind of backs up the ninth amendment stating that any rights or powers not stated directly in the Constitution belong to the people and or the states but there is often controversy as to whether those powers must be specifically stated or simply implied.
I hope this article helps someone out there who is struggling today in America with what they can and can’t do. Celebrate over 200 years of the Constitution ratification this Sunday September 17, 2017.