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The Bill of Rights. Why was the Bill of Rights necessary? People in the USA didn’t want to live under a government with total power like they had under England. EX. People didn’t want the government to have the ability to: search their homes without permission

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the bill of rights

The Bill of Rights

Why was the Bill of Rights necessary?

People in the USA didn’t want to live under a government with total power like they had under England.

EX. People didn’t want the government to have the ability to:

search their homes without permission

force the citizens to open their homes to soldiers

not allow the people to have public meetings

Many people in the USA wanted strong statements added to the Constitution that protected people’s most basic rights.

Congress added 10 amendments (12 were proposed but only 10 were approved) to the Constitution. These were known as the Bill of Rights.


Let’s take a look at the first ten

A.K.A. The Bill of Rights

amendment 1 freedom of opinion
All Americans have the right to:

freedom of religion

freedom of speech

freedom of the press

hold peaceful meetings regarding laws (right to assemble)

EX. Martin Luther King, Jr. could hold peaceful meetings for African Americans about their rights as USA citizens.

Ask the government to correct something that they think is wrong (right of petition)

EX. Give African Americans & women the right to vote

These freedoms are all limited in one way; a person cannot use these laws to take away the rights of another person.

Amendment 1: Freedom of Opinion
amendment 2 right to bear arms
Each state has the right to set up a militia to keep peace (National Guard).

MILITIA – army of citizens, not paid soldiers

All people have the right to own weapons (arms)

Amendment 2:Right to Bear Arms
amendment 3 housing of soldiers
In peacetime, the government cannot force people to keep soldiers in their homes.

In wartime, the government can put soldiers in the homes of people as long as special laws are made explaining how this will be done.

Amendment 3:Housing of Soldiers
amendment 4 searches seizures
Police cannot search a person’s home, papers, or property without good reason & a warrant from a judge.

WARRANT = a document that says the police have the right to look through a person’s belongings; it must say exactly what the police are looking for and where they are going to look for it

Amendment 4:Searches & Seizures
amendment 5 rights in criminal cases due process
A person cannot be put on trial for a felony without an indictment by a grand jury

FELONY = breaking a law that takes the rights away from another person (ex., murder, rape, theft)

A person who has been indicted has these rights:

Doesn’t have to testify against himself

Cannot be tried again for the same crime if found not guilty

The police & court have to follow a fair legal process (due process)

The government cannot take away a person’s property for public use unless the person is paid a fair price for it

Amendment 5:Rights in Criminal Cases(Due Process)
amendment 6 rights to a fair trial
If a person is arrested & accused of a crime, she/he has these rights:

Fair, public trial as soon as possible

Know what she/he is accused of so she/he can prepare a defense

Can be present when witnesses are testifying against him

Can call witnesses to defend him, even if they don’t want to (SUBPOENA)

Right to have a lawyer

Amendment 6:Rights to a Fair Trial
amendment 7 rights in civil cases
What are civil court cases?

Lawsuits that deal with disagreements between people

EX. Over land, property, money, wages

A civil case being dealt with in a federal court can be tried by judge or jury, the people in the case have to make the choice.

A jury’s decision can be checked by a higher court

The jury’s decision can only be changed by the higher court if the jury misinterpreted or misunderstood the law, or if they did not hear all of the facts in the case.

Amendment 7:Rights in Civil Cases
amendment 8 bail fines punishments
A person who is arrested cannot be held in jail for an unfair amount of bail.

BAIL = money paid to the court promising that the accused person will show up to the trial

The government cannot use cruel and unusual punishments (i.e. torture)

Amendment 8:Bail, Fines, & Punishments

This political cartoon shows Lady Justice blindly

beating an African American man with the justice

system. The artist shows how Rodney

King’s 8th Amendment rights were violated by

the police & then by the courts. The court found

the police who beat him during his arrest not


amendment 9 rights not mentioned
This amendment says that they government cannot take away the right of a person not listed in the Constitution.

(There were too many rights to list in it!)

Amendment 9:Rights Not Mentioned
amendment 10 powers not delegated
This amendment says that any power not listed in the Constitution belongs to the states and to the people.

The government only has the powers listed in the Constitution and no more!

Amendment 10:Powers Not Delegated