Most people when they think of the US Constitution beyond the phrase “We the people…” don’t realize what is actually written down in it. In fact most of us without familiarization will start misquoting material from the Bill of Rights thinking they’re speaking from the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Liberal, Moderate, or Conservative we need to know what our rights are. The Bills Of Rights was set up as one more check and balance against tyrannical leadership by limiting the government’s power over aspects of our day to day lives; why do you think so many members of Congress despise this document and regard it as old and outdated.
Do you know why our Miranda Rights or Miranda Warning was not read to people taken under custody until after the 1966 Miranda vs. Arizona? On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested, by the Phoenix Police Department, based on circumstantial evidence linking him to the kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old girl ten days earlier. After two hours of interrogation by police officers, Miranda signed a confession. At no time was he offered the right to counsel; which seems harsh and suspicious to our modern minds, but not to the people of a younger nation. As American citizens it was our right and obligation to learn what we are entitled to without it having to be spoon fed to us.
Today, as opposed to 1966, both leading parties are fighting for power and are perfectly content with us not knowing our god given rights which this nation was founded upon. If you believe in a progressive changing constitution then you really have no reason to complain when the rules get adjusted. When Congress today acts, they will in many cases they are going to hope you do not know what your rights are. If a law is challenged constitutionally it will end up in the Supreme Court, and the Judicial Branch is one more check on the Legislative and Executive powers. If deemed unconstitutional a law can be struck down.
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed to assuage the fears of Anti-Federalists who had opposed Constitutional ratification, these amendments guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government’s power in judicial and other proceedings, and reserve some powers to the states and the public. While originally the amendments applied only to the federal government, most of their provisions have since been applied to the states by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, a process known as incorporation.
You do not have to memorize them, but be familiar with their content. Not to make myself sound smart or take undue credit for much of the material cited here; after going through a number of books and websites giving their interpretation of the content I settled on Wikipedia, which is where most of this info came from. It’s a great site and I love that fact that major legislation and interpretation were inclusive. In my bug out bag I’ve gone so far as to keep a small copy of the entire constitution because it is what gives us the ability to truly be a great nation. Enjoy.
Bill of Rights
The Preamble to The Bill of Rights
Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
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.
RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.
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.
The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. Initially, the First Amendment applied only to laws enacted by Congress, and many of its provisions were interpreted more narrowly than they are today.
In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Court drew on Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence to call for “a wall of separation between church and State”, though the precise boundary of this separation remains in dispute. Speech rights were expanded significantly in a series of 20th- and 21st-century court decisions that protected various forms of political speech, anonymous speech, campaign financing, pornography, and school speech; these rulings also defined a series of exceptions to First Amendment protections. The Supreme Court overturned English common law precedent to increase the burden of proof for defamation and libel suits, most notably in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). Commercial speech is less protected by the First Amendment than political speech, and is therefore subject to greater regulation.
The Free Press Clause protects publication of information and opinions, and applies to a wide variety of media. In Near v. Minnesota (1931) and New York Times v. United States (1971), the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected against prior restraint—pre-publication censorship—in almost all cases. The Petition Clause protects the right to petition all branches and agencies of government for action. In addition to the right of assembly guaranteed by this clause, the Court has also ruled that the amendment implicitly protects freedom of association.
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.
The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms. The right to bear arms predates the Bill of Rights; the Second Amendment was based partially on the right to bear arms in English common law, and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. This right was described by Sir William Blackstone as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state. Academic inquiry into the purpose, scope, and effect of the amendment has been controversial and subject to numerous interpretations.
In United States v. Cruikshank (1875), the Supreme Court ruled that “[t]he right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendment means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the National Government.” In United States v. Miller (1939), the Court ruled that the amendment “[protects arms that had a] reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia”.
In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment “codified a pre-existing right” and that it “protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” but also stated that “the right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose”. In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.
This last bit is important. Just because your state allows you own purchase or sale under their guidance; does not mean it will hold up in a federal court, especially once the BATF gets involved. Know your state’s laws, but if they seem a little relaxed (following the guidance of the 2nd Amendment that is), then it will be worthwhile to know what the federal government’s intents are.
Many people also don’t realize that the second amendment was not only designed as a deterrent from outside invasion, but also one more check and balance against a tyrannical overtaking of the government. The people had the ability to arm and organize themselves against enemies both foreign and domestic. No government disarms its people for safety, it always has to do with a power struggle.
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.
The Third Amendment restricts the quartering of soldiers in private homes, in response to Quartering Acts passed by the British parliament during the Revolutionary War. The amendment is one of the least controversial of the Constitution, and, as of 2009, has never been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision.
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.
The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted as a response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, which is a type of general search warrant, in the American Revolution. Search and seizure (including arrest) must be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court, usually by a law enforcement officer who has sworn by it. The amendment is the basis for the exclusionary rule, which mandates that evidence obtained illegally cannot be introduced into a criminal trial. The amendment’s interpretation has varied over time; its protections expanded under left-leaning courts such as that headed by Earl Warren and contracted under right-leaning courts such as that of William Rehnquist.
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.
The Fifth Amendment protects against double jeopardy and self-incrimination and guarantees the rights to due process, grand jury screening of criminal indictments, and compensation for the seizure of private property under eminent domain. The amendment was the basis for the court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), which established that defendants must be informed of their rights to an attorney and against self-incrimination prior to interrogation by police.
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.
The Sixth Amendment establishes a number of rights of the defendant in a criminal trial:
The right to a speedy and public trial
The right to trial by an impartial jury
The right to be informed of criminal charges
The right to confront witnesses
The right to compel witnesses to appear in court
The right to assistance of counsel
In Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the Court ruled that the amendment guaranteed the right to legal representation in all felony prosecutions in both state and federal courts.
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.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees jury trials in federal civil cases that deal with claims of more than twenty dollars. It also prohibits judges from overruling findings of fact by juries in federal civil trials. In Colgrove v. Battin (1973), the Court ruled that the amendment’s requirements could be fulfilled by a jury with a minimum of six members. The Seventh is one of the only parts of the Bill of Rights not to be incorporated (applied to the states).
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The Eighth Amendment forbids the imposition of excessive bails or fines, though it leaves the term “excessive” open to interpretation.
The most frequently litigated clause of the amendment is the last, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment. This clause was only occasionally applied by the Supreme Court prior to the 1970s, generally in cases dealing with means of execution. In Furman v. Georgia (1972), some members of the Court found capital punishment itself in violation of the amendment, arguing that the clause could reflect “evolving standards of decency” as public opinion changed; others found certain practices in capital trials to be unacceptably arbitrary, resulting in a majority decision that effectively halted executions in the United States for several years. Executions resumed following Gregg v. Georgia (1976), which found capital punishment to be constitutional if the jury was directed by concrete sentencing guidelines. The Court has also found that some poor prison conditions constitute cruel and unusual punishment, as in Estelle v. Gamble (1976).
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The Ninth Amendment protects rights not specifically enumerated by the Constitution. It was rarely cited before the second half of the 20th century, when it was used as a partial foundation for the right to privacy in several landmark cases: Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which struck down a law banning contraceptives, and Roe v. Wade (1973), which established a woman’s right to an abortion. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Court used the amendment to strike down part of another abortion law, a case the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution describes as “the high-water mark, to date, of judicial willingness to use the Ninth Amendment”; between 1992 and 2000, the Court did not refer to the amendment a single time.
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.
The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution’s principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the states, are reserved to the states or the people. The amendment provides no new powers or rights to the states, but rather preserves their authority in all matters not specifically granted to the federal government.