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The Bill of Rights

Below you will find the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The text of the actual amendment is in plain print. Explanations are in italics.

Amendment I - Basic Freedoms

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.

  • No government may pass any law or take any action that appears to favor one religion. This provision is known as the "establishment clause." It creates what we call separation of church and state.
  • No government may pass any law that might prevent freedom of religion.
  • All Americans have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to assemble in groups and the right to protest the government and ask it to change its policies.

Amendment II - Right to Bear Arms

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.

  • Simple, all Americans may own a gun if they choose. The government cannot decide to ban all guns. The question of limitations, however, is subject to debate and interpretaion.

Amendment III - No Quartering of Soldiers

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 government may not house soldiers in the homes of citizens without their permission during peace time. It can happen during war only if Congress passes a law saying so.

Amendment IV - Search and Seizure

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.

  • Peoples homes may not be searched without a warrant. Warrants can be obtained through a judge only if the police show "probable cause."

Amendment V - Life, Liberty, Property, and Due Process

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.

  • You cannot be held for a capital crime without official charges from a grand jury.
  • You cannot be tried for the dame crime twice - double jeaporady.
  • You do not have testify in court against yourself if you do not want to.
  • Life, liberty and property cannot be taken away without laws and trials and a chance for you to appeal - DUE PROCESS. If they take your property the government must provide fair compensation (pay you!).

Amendment VI - Fair and Speedy Jury Trial

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.

  • You have the right to trial by jury.
  • You have the right to be told what you are accused of.
  • You have the right to confront the witnesses against you.
  • You have the right to have a lawyer.

Amendment VII - Jury Trial for Civil Suits

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 reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

  • You have the right to have a trial by jury in a civil suit if the suit is over $20. This number has been raised.

Amendment VIII - Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

  • No cruel and unusual punishment.
  • No excessive bail.

Amendment IX - Limitations of Rights

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

  • None of the rights anyone has can infringe on the rights of someone else.

    Ex - "Your rights end where another persons nose begins." - Constance Kanarek, 1984

Amendment X - Reserved Powers

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.

  • Any powers not listed in the Constitution are given to the States.


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