Bill of Rights

The Bill Of Rights Explained

The Bill of Rights makes up the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

Not many people are familiar with the amendment process nor are they too familiar with the Bill of Rights itself. There are two ways to amend the Constitution. First, Congress can do it. But since our founding fathers were revolutionaries, they built a revolution straight into the Constitution itself. Two-thirds of state legislatures can also ratify a constitutional amendment in order to instruct the federal government. Perhaps we’ll even see an amendment in our lifetime.

Most people are familiar with the big three — freedom of speech, religion, and of the press. But the Bill of Rights is pretty all-encompassing and even covers the issue of bail bonds. The founders thought that excessive bail was a violation of basic human rights. If you ever make bail for yourself or even use a bail bondsman, you are taking advantage of the eighth amendment. You are exercising your constitutionally guaranteed right. But that is not the only odd thing waiting to be discovered in the Bill of Rights. Below is a quick summary of each amendment.

First Amendment

The First Amendment is the big one. It is incredibly specific but also covers a lot of ground in its language. This amendment may be where many people get the idea there should be a separation of church and state because the language of the amendment kicks off by saying that Congress cannot pass a law to favor any one religion.

But the most important parts of this amendment are the rights to free speech and the freedom of the press. This is one of the most basic rights given to Americans that separates our citizenry from the rest of the world. The amendment ends with the right to peacefully assemble in order to protest the government, another quintessential American right.

Second Amendment

This is perhaps the most controversial constitutional amendment. Many believe the amendment guarantees the unfettered right for every American citizen to arm themselves to the teeth. Others claim that the amendment was written during a time when America had no standing army and relied on its citizens for defense. In the end, they are probably both a little bit right. Below is the exact language of the amendment and you can judge for yourself. And remember, it is all one sentence:

“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.”

Third Amendment

When America broke from the rule of Great Britain, it was common practice for British soldiers to be quartered in the average American household. The British Army literally went into your home and lived there. This amendment guarantees the American army would not do the same.

Fourth Amendment

The fourth amendment really separates the benefits of American citizenry compared to the rest of the world. It’s the amendment that forces law enforcement to get a search warrant in order to search your body or anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including your home, your car, and your purse.

Fifth Amendment

Double jeopardy. This amendment explains some of your rights when tried for a crime with the most important one being that you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. Once you are found innocent, you are innocent even if new incriminating evidence arises.

Sixth Amendment

The sixth amendment guarantees that you get an adequate defense in court. This is why many states employ public defenders. It also says that you need to understand the nature of the charges against you. A trial cannot take place if you are incapable of understanding the charges; hence the insanity defense.

Seventh Amendment

This oft-forgotten amendment guarantees you the right to a jury trial if a lawsuit involves more than $20.

Eighth Amendment

The eighth not only protects you from exorbitant bail bonds, but it also guarantees that you will not face cruel and unusual punishment for any crimes.

Ninth Amendment

This amendment disallows anybody to use the Bill of Rights to suppress any other rights guaranteed by the government. The Bill of Rights is a shield, not a weapon.

Tenth Amendment

The last amendment grants the state’s power over anything not covered in the Constitution under federal jurisdiction. This is why America comes in so many flavors.

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