We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
—Preamble to the U.S. Constitution
Of course, we’ve encountered these words over and over again throughout our lives: in grade school, in high school, in college, and even on television. But, as a practical matter, what do they mean? Do they have any effect on your everyday life?
The Constitution and the Freedoms It Affords
In order for our representative democracy to work, there need to be certain rules that everyone can agree upon—at least, they can agree those are the rules, even if they disagree whether they’re the best possible rules. For the United States, those rules are set forth by the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the land; it guarantees personal freedoms and grants individual states and citizens a certain amount of power in the lawmaking process.
It’s worth remembering that the United States of America was the first nation to organize itself based on a written document. Establishing a guaranteed set of rules that any citizen could read and understand was a new idea back in the 18th century.
The first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, specifically guarantees certain civil freedoms. These freedoms cannot be violated by the government (and often, not by other individuals). These freedoms include:
- First Amendment. Freedom of religion; freedom of speech; a free press; and the right or free assembly.
- Second Amendment. The right to keep and bear arms/
- Third Amendment. The freedom from having your home taken over by the military (quartering militia).
- Fourth Amendment. Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
- Fifth Amendment. Double jeopardy rights (can’t be convicted of the same crime twice); requirement of a grand jury or the equivalent for felony crimes; the right to demand proper compensation if the government takes your property.
- Sixth Amendment. The right to a speedy trial by jury in criminal cases; guarantee of due process rights in criminal trials; the right to confront witnesses and to secure legal representation.
- Seventh Amendment. The right to a jury trial for civil cases.
- Eighth Amendment. Prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the right to reasonable bail in criminal cases.
- Ninth Amendment. The reminder that people retain many more rights than can ever be mentioned in the Constitution.
- Tenth Amendment. The reminder that the federal government only has those powers expressly granted by the Constitution, and all other authority belongs to the people and the state governments.
The McDaniel Law Group, PLLC has spent decades perfecting our understanding of the Bill of Rights in order to help clients like you fight against oppression and civil rights violations. If you believe that your fundamental rights have been overlooked, we can help you get the justice you deserve.
Fill out our contact form, or come see us at our D.C. office to get started. With our extensive knowledge and experience we can help you build a strong civil rights case and take back your constitutional freedoms.