Did you know that the Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the Constitution? Okay, maybe you did. But can you name all the amendments, and what they protect?
You’re probably familiar with the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments, which are commonly referenced and protect free speech, the right to bear arms, and the right not to incriminate yourself, respectively.
But what about the other amendments to the Constitution? See how many amendments in the Bill of Rights you can name from memory before you scroll down and refresh your memory. Don’t peek!
You ready? Here’s the breakdown:
1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment protects more than just free speech. It also forbids a national religion and protects religious liberty, freedom of the press, assembly, and the right to petition the government.
2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Though the first clause is highly debated, this amendment protects citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.
3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
An amendment which forbids soldiers from taking over your house seems odd today—indeed, as of 2015 it hasn’t been the primary basis of a single Supreme Court decision.
4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
We still see challenges to this right today with issues like civil asset forfeiture, or warrants being issued based on falsified or unreliable testimony.
5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
This amendment protects you from self-incrimination (i.e., that “right to remain silent” and “pleading the Fifth” stuff you hear on crime dramas) and from being tried twice for the same crime. For allowable seizures of property, there have been a lot of disputes on what constitutes public use, and just compensation.
6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
This amendment guarantees you a fair trial.
7. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Did you know this one? This amendment defines the right to a jury trial in some civil cases, and forbids the courts from overturning the jury’s findings.
8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
This amendment is the source of many challenges to the death penalty.
9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
This often-overlooked amendment protects citizens’ rights which aren’t listed in the Constitution or Bill of Rights. One right which has since been established, though it is not mentioned in the Constitution, is the right to privacy.
10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Tenth Amendment limits the power of the federal government and protects the powers of the states and the people.
So? How’d you do? Tell us how many you could name in the comments.