THE BILL OF RIGHTS
It is hard to believe that several of our Founding Fathers did not vote to ratify the Constitution, Patrick Henry included. Why the opposition? Too much power in the Federal Government. You can thank Mr. Henry for the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments to the Constitution. He thought that as Americans, we needed specification of what rights we specifically possess rather than relying on what others thought were "implied". And yes, almost two hundred and fifty years later, they still matter.
WHY THESE RIGHTS MATTER
First Amendment: For the most part we as Americans can worship the god of our choice, can speak without fear of arrest, can form groups of our choosing, and can petition and protest the very government that we live under.
Second Amendment: We have the right to possess firearms.
Third Amendment: The Government cannot force soldiers into our homes. Notably this is the only Amendment that has not been litigated in the United States Supreme Court. http://www.revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com/third-amendment.html
Fourth Amendment: I would argue one of the most important, the Government cannot just show up and search us, our homes, our cars, and other property, and take the same, without a judge saying so. When we lived under English rule, "writs of assistance" allowed agents of the Crown to search and seize at will. These agents were even allowed to transfer the writ to a third party and they were valid until six months after the death of the King. Today, before a search or arrest warrant can be issued, a person has to provide sworn testimony to a judge which establishes probable cause for searching or arresting a person. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writ_of_assistance
Fifth Amendment: Again, one of the most revered and important in my opinion, this Amendment protects us against:
1. Being held to answer for a capital crime without prior presentment to a grand jury.
2. Being tried twice for the same offense.
3. Compelling us to present evidence against ourselves. This is where "Miranda Rights" come from.
4. When life, liberty, or property is at issue, deprivation of due process which is, generally, notice of what is to be done by the Government to us, and a right to challenge the action at a hearing along with appellate review.
5. The Government cannot take our property for public use without fair compensation.
Sixth Amendment: This Amendment gives us rights to:
1. A speedy and public trial along with an impartial jury of our peers.
2. Full disclosure of what the charges are against one in criminal cases.
3. To cross examine and challenge one's accuser.
4. To compel the attendance of witnesses in court and for the assistance of counsel in criminal cases.
Seventh Amendment: In Federal Court, if the amount of money in question is more than twenty dollars, citizens have a right to a trial by jury.
Eighth Amendment: In criminal cases, no excessive bail, no excessive fines, no cruel and unusual punishment can be administered. Simply put, if arrested for a criminal offense, the amount of bail cannot be excessive in relation to the crime charged. If convicted, the punishment cannot be cruel and unusual, i.e.. one cannot be "tarred and feathered", branded, etc.
Ninth Amendment: This Amendment protects certain "natural rights" that are not specifically listed in the Constitution. This Amendment was used to uphold certain rights of citizens in cases involving banning contraceptives and certain rights of women. Barnett, Randy E. (2000). "Ninth Amendment (Update)
Tenth Amendment: Just because the Federal Government does not have the power to grant or deny certain rights, does not mean the States cannot do so. This Amendment preserves many of the powers of the State. For example, in South Carolina, our State Constitution arguably provides more protections from unwarranted government intrusion than the Federal version by way of Article I, Section 10 which adds the protection against "unreasonable invasions of privacy".
My goal in this post was to generally inform and remind the reader of the importance of what rights we possess as Americans. If you have questions regarding this posting, a DUI, or criminal case in Berkeley, Charleston, or Dorchester County, please contact my office today at (843) 761-0610 or through the contact page on this website.
Brady Vannoy carries a Martindale-Hubbell(R) AV PreeminentTM Rating. According to the rating system, "AV Preeminent(R) is a significant rating accomplishment-a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence." http://www.martindale.com/Products_and_Services/Peer_Review_Ratings.aspx
Brady is a member of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Brady defends DUI and Criminal cases in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties along with other areas of the South Carolina low country. He can be reached at (843) 761-0610 or through the contact page on this website.