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Sixth Amendment’s Speedy Trial Right: Ancient, Worthy and Elusive

Speedy Trial Clock

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights contains many protections for those the government accuses of having committed a crime.  Among them is the Sixth Amendment right to a “speedy trial”.  The provision is stated: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy … trial” The right may has old roots and […]

The Sixth Amendment’s Right to the Assistance of Counsel

Henry Fonda in Gideon's Trumpet

Thanks to television police reading the Miranda Warnings people are familiar with a criminal defendant’s right to an attorney and that an indigent defendant may have appointed counsel. Such protections have not always been part of United States law. The right to an attorney is found in the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment.  The Sixth Amendment was ratified as part of the Bill […]

Fourth Amendment Probable Cause for a Warrantless Arrest

A police officer cannot arrest a citizen without a warrant based upon a hunch or mere suspicion. He must have “probable cause”. The US Constitution‘s Fourth Amendment[1] requires a warrant for a person or his property to be “seized” or searched by a government agent.  The law has developed allowing government agents to conduct warrantless […]

The Sixth Amendment, One Amendment, Six Constitutional Rights

Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment contains rights beyond the well-known right to an attorney in criminal matters. There are six constitutional rights in the Sixth Amendment.  They are procedural rights designed to protect an individual’s inalienable natural rights of life and liberty found in the Declaration of Independence. The Sixth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, […]

The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution

The_Tenth_Amendment

“The Tenth Amendment is the foundation of the Constitution.”  – Thomas Jefferson Among the questions raised by opponents of the Constitution during the ratification debates was the lack of an express limit on federal power, and that it would be a danger to individual freedoms and to the powers of the states. In response to […]

Constitution’s Ninth Amendment: Protecting Unenumerated Rights

Ninth Amendment

On September 17, 1787 the drafting of the American Constitution was complete.  The proposed document was not without its detractors and several delegates who participated refused to sign the document.[1]  A major objection was the lack of specific protections for individual freedoms.   The document provided that it would become effective with the ratification of nine […]

Eighth Amendment: Banning Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights.  Along with the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments it recognizes procedural rights for persons accused of crimes.  The purpose of these procedural rights is to protect an individual’s inalienable natural right to liberty.  When originally ratified in 1791, the Bill of […]

The Seventh Amendment: Right to a Jury in Federal Civil Trials

TrialByJury Jefferson Quote

The Founding Fathers had a healthy fear of government power. They relied upon citizen juries to check that power. The suspension of jury trials was one of Declaration of Independence grievances against King George.  The Constitution’s 7th Amendment reflects colonial history and beliefs. John Adams described the place of the jury in the system of […]

Fourth Amendment Victory: Cell Phones Cannot be Searched Without a Warrant

cell-phone

In an age of NSA surveillance, secret courts issuing secret warrants, IRS officials allowing private data to be made public and more, it is important to take notice when the Supreme Court steps up and unanimously limits government intrusions in line with the intent of the Founders. Applying 18th Century constitutional commands in the modern […]

The Exclusionary Rule in US Criminal Trials

fourthamendment

Part of the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits government searches or seizures without a warrant issued by a disinterested magistrate. The Fourth Amendment protects the right to have government stay out of a person’s home and property without prior approval by a judge. If the judge has found […]