Do you know your rights? As a citizen, resident or visitor to the United States, you have certain rights under federal law. While most people learn about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in school, it’s always good to refresh your memory when it comes to understanding your legal rights under the law.
The Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution, make up some of the most powerful and enduring rights in American law.
What’s in the Bill of Rights?
When you look at the Bill of Rights, it’s important to note that the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have interpreted, refined and expanded the provisions contained in the amendments. Many doctrines and rules have emerged from the rights guaranteed in the first 10 amendments. Ratified in 1791, all 10 amendments were written by James Madison.
According to federal criminal defense lawyers in Dallas, here’s what these amendments say and what you should do if you find yourself facing federal charges in Texas.
1. First Amendment – Right to Free Speech, Assembly, and Religion. Establishment Clause
The First Amendment gives everyone the right to free speech and assembly, which means people have a right to meet and gather with others without government permission or interference.
The First Amendment also protects a person’s right to practice whatever religion they choose, including no religion. The amendment also prohibits the federal government from creating a state religion.
Additionally, the First Amendment protects freedom of the press and the right of people to communicate with the government.
2. Second Amendment – Right to Bear Arms
The Second Amendment, which gives people the right to keep and bear arms, is quite short when it comes to text, but it has sparked a great deal of controversy over the years. The exact meaning of the Second Amendment has been a source of legal debate throughout the country’s history.
3. Third Amendment – Quarters for Soldiers
The Third Amendment ensures that homeowners can’t be forced to keep soldiers in their homes during peacetime without getting permission from homeowners.
This amendment obviously isn’t all that applicable in modern times, but it was an area of concern for the Founders around the time of the American Revolution when the British government used to allow its soldiers to take over private homes for their own use.
4. Fourth Amendment – Right to Privacy
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of individuals to be free of illegal searches and seizures. It also states that any search warrants must be supported by probable cause. The Fourth Amendment has given rise to a large number of Supreme Court cases that address privacy rights.
Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has carved out numerous exceptions to the warrant requirement. For example, police don’t need a warrant when they are chasing after a fleeing criminal suspect in “hot pursuit.” Likewise, the police don’t need a warrant if the evidence of a crime is in plain view.
5. Fifth Amendment – Double Jeopardy Clause, Right Against Self-incrimination, Takings Clause
The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from being held in government custody unless they are legitimately accused of a criminal offense.
The amendment also states that no one can be put on trial twice for the same crime, that no one can be forced to testify against himself, and that the government can’t take anyone’s property away without giving them proper compensation for it.
6. Sixth Amendment – Right to a Speedy Trial
The Sixth Amendment gives everyone the right to a speedy trial. It also states that people are innocent until proven guilty, that people accused of a crime have the right to legal counsel, and that the accused has the right to confront witnesses.
This amendment can be analyzed even more by state, for example, what the right to a speedy trial means in Texas.
7. Seventh Amendment – Right to a Trial by Jury
The Seventh Amendment gives people a right to a jury trial in civil cases in federal court — a right that most countries don’t guarantee. In fact, even in the American system, it’s unusual to see a jury in a civil case in federal court.
Jury trials are still used in federal criminal cases, but they are typically too expensive and time-consuming to use in a civil case. In most situations, the parties in a federal civil case will ask for a bench trial, which means the judge decides the case.
8. Eighth Amendment – No Excessive Bail, No Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The Eighth Amendment prohibits the government from setting excessive bail or fines. It also forbids the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishments.
9. Ninth Amendment – Unenumerated Rights
The Ninth Amendment, which states “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” is an acknowledgement that people may have other rights not explicitly identified in the Constitution and that the government can’t violate any other rights just because they don’t appear in the Constitution or its amendments.
10. Tenth Amendment – Reserved Powers
The Tenth Amendment says that any powers not reserved for the federal government belong to the states or the people.
Why You Need a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Dallas
Anyone facing criminal charges in Texas should be aware of what their rights are under federal law. If you or a loved one have been charged with a federal crime in Texas, it’s in your best interest to speak with a federal criminal defense attorney in Dallas who has experience handling these types of cases. Call the experienced defense attorneys at the Law Office of Broden & Mickelsen. Their attorneys will protect your rights and explain all of your legal options going forward.
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Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case.