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Bill of Rights refer to the first ten amendments to the constitution of the United States. At the other hand the term itself is quite old. It has its roots in Magna Carta Libertatum and Bill of Rights that was an act of the parliament in England in 1689, that brought the separation of powers, limited the power of the king and the queen, established democratic elections and supported the freedom of speech. Bill of Rights that is the topic of this writing, is a result of debates regarding the U.S. Constitution being open to tyranny that the people of the nation lived through during the reign under the British Empire and violation of rights of the citizens. In order to create a zone that can not be touched by the government and establish fundamental rights for the citizens, a bill of rights was demanded. As stated above, Bill of Rights is comprised of ten amendments to the Constitution and all of these were ratified in 1791, two years after the ratification of the Constitution.

The first amendment is related to freedom of religion and freedom of speech and press. According to the way it is written, it is to prevent Congress from making law regarding the rights above. To explain it better, Congress may not make any law banning or making a religion stand above other religions. It may also not prevent individuals from expressing themselves anyway they want with its law and it may not revoke the right to peacefully protest a topic and petition the government to act on it. The second one is probably the most arguable one. The debates over this right have been made through years. Some people of the United States are so fond of this right that they founded a foundation, just for the preservation and protection of this right. They release court cases (precedents) to back their case up. Yet, as much as there is the existence of the supporters, there also individuals and organisations against this amendment, demanding another amendment. The right itself, at the other hand, is pertaining to bearing arms or in other words being able to own and carry a firearm. Yet, there are some regulations on the firearms enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which are Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act.

The third amendment is not active in the daily life and in general, it simply states that unless there is a war and there are rules laid down by the Congress, citizens are not obligated to let soldiers use and live in their houses. Moreover, the fourth amendment is to protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures. It values the privacy of the personal life and therefore protects the right to privacy. Under this amendment, the police must have reason to conclude search and seize people’s property. With some exceptions, this requires a search warrant that may be issued from a magistrate, a court authority. Yet, the police may conclude “terry stop”, which is basically stopping a person and frisking them down. Terry stop has its origins in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). There may also be traffic stop and investigatory stop. However, these actions also require a reason.

The fifth amendment firstly states that unless there is a war or the person is in the military, everyone is the subject of the fifth amendment. Grand jury is a protection put in the fifth amendment that is old and dating back to hundreds of years ago. The purpose of the grand jury is to guard individuals against charges that are unjust. Jurors on the grand jury decide whether or not an indictment is just. Should the indictment is not proper, they return it. After that, there is also the term “double jeopardy”. This is another institution preventing the person from multiple trials and distress can be caused by these, after acquittal. The amendment also prevents self incrimination. With this, individuals may not be forced to admit or say they are guilty or anything that has the same meaning. Therefore, a person may simply be quiet during his trial, refusing to answer any question directed to them. This fact is also related to Miranda rights, along with the sixth amendment. It originates from the case Miranda vArizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) The fifth amendment also has the “just compensation” clause. It acknowledges that the government may acquire people’s property, however the government is to pay for the property it turns into “res public”. The final one is something fundamentally important, it states that the government respects the rights, guarantees and protections of people.

The sixth amendment is related to criminal affairs. The provisions of it regulate after a person is charged with a crime. It regulates that everyone has the right to a public trial. The Supreme Court, in its many cases, stated the benefits of a public trial. It helps the criminal defendant to have a fair trial, prevents the cases of perjury. Public trials also help people understand the justice system and allowing people that the justice is being done. With the publicity of the trials, the necessity of a jury comes. The amendment also adds that, defendant if desires will have a trial by an impartial jury who is comprised of ordinary citizens. The history of jury is as old as Magna Carta, it is a result of people not trusting the governments. The right to have a jury trial is also possible for civil trials, as stated in the seventh amendment. Before the trial starts, the accused must know what they are charged with and be allowed to use the help of a legal counsel.

The seventh one is simply shown above, therefore the next one is the eight one. The eight amendment forces the government to issue humane punishments for a convict. It restricts the procedures that can be used in the capital punishment. For instance, a person must not be killed by torture. The amendment also requires a proportion, with the punishment and the severity of the crime. With these, bail and fines must not exceed what is reasonable in accordance with the trial as a result of proportion. As for the ninth and the tenth amendment, the first one is pertaining to other rights of the people, that are not listed in the constitution. It acknowledges that the rights that are covered in the constitution are not limited, there are indefinite amount of rights. The final amendment, at the other hand, gives the freedom of regulating matters that constitution doesn’t give the Congress as power, to states and the people.

Post Author: Hasan Serat Gökçek

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