The Bill of Rights is more important than we give it credit for. It guarantees that our rights remain our rights, even in the face of adversity. The constitution was very much written in blood. The Bill of Rights continues to stand true today, as it did at its initial creation. Here are some ways the Bill of Rights has impacted your life and will continue to do so.
What is the bill of rights?
The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was created to address fundamental issues — like what powers the federal government should have over its people and how those people can protect their natural rights.
Freedom of speech and religion
The first amendment, ratified on December 15, 1791, is likely the most well-known part of the Bill of Rights because it protects two fundamental rights that are deeply ingrained in American culture: freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech: You can write a blog post criticizing Congress or even the president without fear that you’ll be arrested or censored by the government for doing so.
Freedom of religion: You can practice any faith you want or no faith at all without fear that you’ll be persecuted or oppressed for doing so (unless you are part of a minority group).
You can own a weapon
The Second Amendment protects gun ownership, though there are some restrictions. For example, you can’t own a nuclear bomb or grenade launcher. The Supreme Court has said that you cannot own an “unusual and dangerous” weapon that doesn’t have a “reasonable relationship” to owning a gun for self-defense. You also can’t own machine guns or short-barreled rifles.
The government limits who can buy a gun and who can sell one. You might not be packing heat, but if you ever want to get a gun for hunting, self-defense, or any other reason, this right is critical.
The Third Amendment prohibits a military draft where soldiers are forced to quarter in private homes without permission from the owners.
The Fourth Amendment protects your privacy from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement authorities without probable cause for a search warrant issued by a judge. Police officers must abide by this amendment even if they suspect someone is involved in criminal activity. However, your computer files are protected by this amendment, as well as bank records and other private information held by third parties.
Defend yourself in court
The Fifth Amendment contains several rights, but it’s probably most famous for protecting citizens from self-incrimination, which is when someone builds a criminal case against themselves by admitting to a crime.
The right to be silent (or the right not to incriminate yourself) is known as your Fifth Amendment right. You can invoke these rights during any police interrogation, whether or not you are under arrest. (This is why police officers must advise you of your Miranda rights before they question you.)
The Sixth Amendment is designed to protect criminal defendants’ rights during their trials. The speedy trial clause requires that a case be heard within a certain time period after charges are filed. The public trial clause requires that trials be open to the public. And the jury clause guarantees that juries be made up of people from the defendant’s community instead of people from outside it. It also says that only juries — not judges — can determine guilt or innocence.
The Seventh Amendment gives you the right to have an unbiased jury drawn from people like yourself. If the case is about whether you got hurt because of someone else’s negligence, then the jury should be made up of people who would have similar thoughts and opinions about safety as you do.
Protect your property
The Eighth Amendment ensures that no one is going to lose their house over a minor accident caused by someone else — unless your house is worth millions of dollars. One of the purposes of punitive damages is to make sure that people remember not to do things like drive drunk or leave their guns lying around carelessly so that they shoot someone unintentionally. Punitive damages are supposed to make sure the defendant thinks twice before acting negligently again in the future — they’re not supposed to bankrupt someone either.
Unspecified and general rights
The Ninth Amendment protects the rights of people that are not specifically listed in the Bill of Rights. It also protects our privacy rights and personal liberty. Basically, just because your right is not specified in the Constitution doesn’t mean your right isn’t protected.
The Tenth Amendment is different from most other parts of the Bill of Rights: It doesn’t give people any new rights at all. Instead, it says that everything not specifically granted to the federal government in the Constitution belongs to people or to their state governments.
It is important to remember why the Bill of Rights was drafted. It is not just an old document with antiquated rules that don’t apply to modern life. Instead, it is a document that protects citizens from the government and, even more crucially, preserves our natural rights.