The Bill of Rights- Part 2

| October 25, 2018

The first five amendments of the Bill of Rights can be considered the more “general” rights that are granted to any American citizen. Those rights are always in effect except in the case of incarceration. The latter five amendments grant rights to those accused of a crime. (is this what you meant?)

 

Everyone has watched some sort of crime TV show where a person that is being arrested is read their rights as they are being taken away in a police car. These rights are called the Miranda Rights and they are based on a court case in which Miranda was arrested and convicted after going through trial without any legal representation. This was due to the fact that Miranda had no idea that he had the right to counsel, or that he could remain silent in an interrogation to avoid self-incrimination. Eventually the Supreme Court decided that it should be required for anyone to be advised of their right to legal counsel, as well as the right to protect themselves from self-incrimination. These Miranda rights are based off of the fifth, sixth and seventh amendments.

 

The purpose of these rights is to not only ensure that people have a lawyer when needed, but to ensure that the courts are doing their best to enforce justice and that justice is carried out fairly. In America, the court system is based on the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” and these rights help ensure that even someone being accused of murder has rights and the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

 

  1. The Sixth Amendment grants citizens the right to a speedy, fair, and public trial by jury in the same state and district that a crime was committed in. You are also granted the rights to know exactly what you are being accused of and are able to confront any witnesses that testify against you. This amendment also grants you the right to have counsel, and if you are unable to afford your own lawyer, by law the government must provide one for you.
  2. The Seventh Amendment grants the right to a trial by jury in civil cases within the federal government. While this amendment is not really used much in today’s society, it was very important when the civil rights movement was taking place.
  3. The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. This guarantees that bail is determined based on the accused’s financial situation, the charges, and their history of crime as well. This also ensures that during any type of law enforcement interviews or interrogations, officers cannot inflict emotional or physical pain/punishment in order to gain a confession.
  4. The Ninth Amendment ensures that the government cannot create any laws to deny or disparage rights that are retained by the people.
  5. The Tenth Amendment states that powers that are not delegated to the U.S by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.

 

While many overlook the last two amendments, it is so important that American citizens understand that this means that the government cannot take away the rights already granted, they cannot create new laws that in any way deny our freedoms, and they cannot claim new powers either. This means that while many powers are solely given to the federal government, the majority of the power and the rights are granted to the citizens. It is so much more than just the right to vote for who is in office. It is the right to share opinions, to protect ourselves, to practice religion without the fear of persecution, and to privacy.

 

As I have said many times before, this justice system that is in place currently is not perfect, nor will it ever be. Before judging it, shaming it, and shouting hatred, we need to understand truly the way that it works. While many are upset about the individual that is in office, it is so important to understand that in America, the President is not a dictator. He/she does not get to implement policies and make decisions without the consent of congress. On the slight possibility that the Presidency does turn into a dictatorship, the Second Amendment grants us the right to protect ourselves from the government if our rights are being threatened.

 

In the past two years I have hear many people say that America is truly not free because of the police brutality cases, school shootings, and Black Lives Matter movement. People claim that the government system we have squanders God given rights rather than cherish them. While there are cases in which law enforcement does not follow procedure and acts out hastily, people must understand that it took over a hundred years for our Constitution to become what it is today. We live in a nation that gives us the freedom to feel safe from the government. There will ALWAYS be bad people, and there is never going to be anything anyone can do to stop bad things, we can sleep peacefully knowing that we have the right to wake up and go to church if we choose to do so. Or not go to church. We have the right say no to an officer searching our home if there is not a warrant presented. We have the right to voice our opinions, and if fact we are encouraged to do so. The system will never be perfect, nor will the people elected into office make perfect decisions. That is not what a free country means. It means we have the freedom to implement change, and we are encouraged to do so.