The 8th Amendment is a controversial one for freedom fighters in the plight against torture of terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. People in favor say that it isn’t a problem because it doesn’t take place on American soil. Right or wrong – that’s for you to decide. We all need to cultivate our own thoughts and opinions, and base them off of facts. Here is the fact of how the 8th Amendment reads; “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Obviously, this is an important law. We do not want the government holding prisoners for ransom at extremely high bail rates, nor should we be exposed to incessant fining. And we definitely do not want American citizens being exposed to cruel and unusual punishments. This amendment is probably written in the most clear language and doesn’t need a lot of interpretation, yet the courts still struggle to interpret it. What is considered excessive bail? What constitutes cruel and unusual? You and I know what this amendment is for – when will they figure it out?
Defend yourself with the knowledge of the constitution. Learn your rights, study your rights, defend your rights.
Everyone hates jury duty. Why do we have to serve in the courts as judges when a judge is sitting right there? The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to be tried by a jury of your peers in most cases. The Seventh Amendment reads; “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.”
This amendment is important because it helps balance the powers of the judicial branch. Instead of a single person playing judge, jury and executioner; you actually get a judge and a jury – and in some states, in some instances, an executioner. The jury is unbiased and aren’t caught up in the politics of judicial and legislative work. This is so vital to prevent the government from being the end all be all. This helps curb the ability of the government to unjustly put away people whom they deem an enemy of the state.
The promise to be tried by a jury and not by a government official was a radical and essential need for the founders and is still for us today.
Another week, another lesson. Time to learn about your right to a speedy trial. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states; “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 defense.”
This promises liberties such as your right to a speedy and public trial, an impartial jury, and an explanation of the charges being lodged against you. As well as the right to cross-examine those you testify against you, and the right to produce witnesses to testify in your favor. Finally, it promises your right the legal counsel.
While our justice system certainly needs to be reformed, the rights promised in this amendment should be at the forefront of reformation. These rights are vital to balancing power, seeking justice and keeping freedoms and rights for all citizens – who are innocent until proven guilty. The system will never be perfect, but this amendment aims to make it better.
How would you like see the justice system reformed? What do you see happening that you believe is unconstitutional? Study up and decide for yourself.
Arm yourself with knowledge and know your rights so you can keep your rights.
This week we will be talking about the Fifth Amendment. Many of you may not know what the fifth amendment is off the top of your head, but anyone who has ever watched television knows what it is. Do you recall the phrase, “pleading the fifth?” Pleading the fifth means you are invoking your constitutional fifth amendment right to not answer questions that may incriminate you. It is the right officers refer to when they say, “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used in a court of law.” And that is exactly why you must exercise this right – because anything you say can be used against you.
The full amendment reads; “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 offense 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.”
This covers not only your right to remain silent, but also the promise that you cannot be put through successive prosecutions and trials for the same crime – meaning that the first acquittal is final. This is also where you find the promise of due process. Finally, it talks about just compensation. Just compensation means that if the government were to take your private property for public use, that they would have to pay the private holder fair market value at the time of the taking.
The Fifth Amendment and the Just Compensation Clause is what proponents of Eminent Domain cite to justify their actions. I am not going to tell you what side of the fence to stand on in that debate, but now would be a good time to do your research and decide for yourself.
Learn your rights. Know your rights. Exercise your rights. Demand your rights. Keep your Rights. Be free.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads “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.”
Anyone who’s ever been a fan of crime dramas is well acquainted with the term “search warrant,” but why do they need one? Because of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is a promise of privacy from the government. It means what is ours is ours and they have no right to it. And if police or other government entities believe that we are hiding something that would indict us of a criminal act, they must go through the courts with probable cause to obtain a warrant.
This amendment is important to protect our privacy. None of us like the feeling of having no privacy. That’s what this whole Zuckerberg trial is about. The ironic part about the trial is that Facebook optional, but the spying the government does on it’s on citizens is secretly enforced without our knowledge or consent. I’m not coming to the defense of Facebook, only pointing out the hypocrisy that oozes from the congressional walls.
Perhaps the amendment that has been the most battered and abused, you can see violations of this right everywhere you turn. Department of Homeland Security and The Patriot Act, TSA and airport pat-downs, data-mining done in both the private and public sectors, and the list goes on. Some people will say that we need those things to protect us, but the fact remains that they are illegal and I believe that they are much to our detriment.
Welcome back to the third installment of the Know Your Rights series. This week we will be looking into the third amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Third Amendment isn’t one that gets a lot of media attention, nor does it seem like it is a real problem in our day to day lives, but it is very important.
The Third Amendment states that; “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 act of quartering soldiers in the homes of private residents was a big problem in Colonial America. During the French and Indian War, Britain had seized private dwellings for their troops to stay in. Some countries today still allow this practice, but we do not think of it as much of a threat to our daily lives here in America.
Perhaps we should. Following Hurricane Katrina, just about every right was violated. This one included. In a report from ABC News on the illegal gun confiscation that went on (breaking second amendment rights,) they note that some troops had set up their base camp in a private church, without permission.
The third amendment is a violation of rights – many rights. It violates privacy, freedom, and property and cannot be taken lightly. Know your rights to protect your rights.