The Bill of Rights

Amendment Paraphrase Why do you think this Amendment was so important to the people of the new United States?
The First Amendment

"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. "

People can think whatever they choose to think.
People can publish their beliefs, no matter what they might be.
People can express whatever they feel like expressing, as long as they behave themselves while doing so.
People can complain about how the government is run.
The Second Amendment

"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. "

You can have a militia, because it is necessary for the defense of freedom.
You can have weapons. No restrictions.
The Third Amendment

"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. "

You don't have to let soldiers stay at your house, unless there is a war, and even then only in the manner described by the law.  
The Fourth Amendment

"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. "

You can refuse to have yourself, your house, your documents, and your stuff searched or taken.
There is an exception: if a warrant is issued.
A warrant shall only be issued if there is reasonable cause for suspicion.
A warrant must be specific in what may be searched, and what may be seized during the search.
To get a warrant, one has to swear that he is just in doing so.
The Fifth Amendment

"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 punished for anything unless you have been formally accused in writing.
If you are in a military service, this right is NOT active while you are on duty and there is a war or emergency going on.
You cannot be put on trial a second time for the same crime (this is commonly called "double jeopardy").
You don't have to say anything that might lay the blame on yourself.
You can't be punished outside of the methods described by the law.
The government can't take your property for public use unless they pay you a fair amount for it.
The Sixth Amendment

"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 don't have to sit around in jail for an unreasonable amount of time waiting for your trial.
Your trial is public, not secret.
This ensures a fair trial.
The jury must not be involved in the issue that is the subject of your trial.
Before the trial, it must be decided whether your crime is city, county, or federal. Your trial must be in the court of the region you committed it in.
You have to be told what you are accused of and the reason you are suspected.
You get to hear and see the evidence they have against you.
You can present evidence in your defense.
You can use a lawyer to help defend you.
The Seventh Amendment

"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."

If you are being sued for more than $20, you can take it to trial for a judgment.
Whatever is decided in such a trial is final, unless a law says otherwise.


The Eighth Amendment

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

Bail and punishments should be appropriate for the crime.
Punishments should not involve torture.


The Ninth Amendment

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

Just because something isn't mentioned here doesn't mean that it is illegal.  
The Tenth Amendment

"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."


The federal government cannot do anything the Constitution doesn't specifically say it can do.
The states can do anything they want as long as the action or law isnít:
1.  A Constitutional power of the federal government, or
2.  Outlawed by the Constitution
If there is no law against something, it is legal.

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