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Government - Unit 4, Chapter 20: Civil Liberties: Protecting Individual Rights
Transcript of Government - Unit 4, Chapter 20: Civil Liberties: Protecting Individual Rights
Freedom and Security of Person
Section 4: Punishment
Section 3: Rights of the Accused
Civil Liberties: Protecting Individual Rights
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was added in 1865 which ended over 200 years of slavery in the U.S.
A second part of the 13th Amendment gave Congress the power to abolish the "badges and incidents of slavery" according to the Supreme Court. This allows Congress to pass anti-discrimination laws.
"At the very least, the freedom that Congress is empowered to secure under the 13th Amendment includes the freedom to buy whatever a white man can buy, the right to live wherever a white man can live." - Justice Potter Stewart, Opinion of the Court
The 2nd Amendment states, "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."
So what exactly does that mean??
The 2nd Amendment was added to the Constitution to protect the right of each State to keep a militia and to preserve the concept of the citizen-soldier.
However, federal and state level lawmakers have expanded the 2nd Amendment in the last 50-100 years to include the protection of personal ownership of firearms.
The 4th Amendment reads: "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."
This amendment was designed to prevent blanket search warrants in which police could search you anytime, anywhere, and for any reason they wanted.
The basic rule of the 4th Amendment: police have no general right to search for evidence or to seize either evidence or persons. Except in special circumstances, they must have a proper warrant (court order).
Furthermore, that warrant must be obtained with probable cause, that is, a reasonable suspicion of crime. However, police do not need a warrant when evidence is "in plain view."
When officers make a lawful arrest they do not need a warrant. They only need probable cause that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime.
At the heart of the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures lies in this question:
If an unlawful search or seizure does occur, can that "tainted evidence" be used in court?
If so, the 4th Amendment offers no real protection to a person accused of a crime. That is why the Court has adopted the exclusionary rule.
The exclusionary rule means this: evidence gained as the result of an illegal act by police cannot be used at the trial of the person from whom it was seized.
Here are the two sides to the exclusionary rule...which side do you agree with more?
Police, as you enforce the law, obey the law. The exclusionary rule will prevent or at least deter police misconduct.
Why, they ask, should criminals be able to "beat the rap" on a "technicality"?
What are your rights as a person accused of a crime in the United States?
Presumed innocent until proven guilty by fair and lawful means.
"It is better that ten guilty persons go free than that one innocent person be punished." - William Blackstone
The writ of habeas corpus is sometimes called the writ of liberty. It is intended to prevent unjust arrests and imprisonments.
The writ of habeaus corpus commands that a prisoner, or someone who has been arrested, be brought before the court and that the officer show cause, or explain, with good reason why the prisoner should not be released.
This right was taken away by Lincoln during the Civil War time period. It was ruled to be unconstitutional for the President to suspend this right but the Constitution does grant Congress the power to suspend it during "cases of rebellion or invasion..."
You also have the right to a speedy and public trial.
The guarantee of a speedy trial is meant to ensure that the government will try a person accused of a crime within a reasonable time and without undue delay.
The right of a public trial is to ensure that you aren't unfairly treated in some way. The public's ability to be present at a trial could give someone accused of a crime support or help ensure no shenanigans are going on.
A trial can't be too speedy or too public...the Supreme Court threw out a murder conviction in 1923 because the trial had taken place in only 45 minutes and it had been held in a courtroom packed by a threatening, angry mob.
A person accused of a crime also has the right to a trial by jury. The jury should be impartial and is composed of 6-12 members.
A defendant can waive their right to a jury trial. The case would then be decided solely by the judge.
While people accused of crimes are given several rights to prove their innocence we are going to focus on a select few of those rights as laid out in the 6th amendment.
A person accused of a crime has the right to an adequate defense. This doesn't mean that everyone has the right to the best lawyer in the country but it does give everyone the right to have a lawyer defend them.
In fact, even people who cannot afford a lawyer are appointed a lawyer by a judge. Usually a "public defender" or a lawyer who is paid for by tax dollars.
Finally, a person accused of a crime has the guarantee against self-incrimination. This means that no person can be
to be a witness against himself.
This is because the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. The defendant does not have to prove his or her innocence, the prosecution has to prove that persons guilt.
The 8th Amendment to the Constitution deals with the punishment and treatment of those convicted of crimes.
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed..." - 8th Amendment
Bail is a sum of money that the accused may be required to post/deposit with the court as a guarantee that he or she will appear in court at the proper time.
The use of bail is justified on two grounds:
A person should not be jailed until his or her guilt is established
A defendant is better able to prepare for a trial outside of a jail.
That does not mean that someone accused of a crime is automatically entitled to bail.
The 8th Amendment also forbids "cruel and unusual punishment." The Supreme Court has not ruled on this very often and with most cases they do hear they rule that the punishment is not cruel or unusual.
Capital punishment, or punishment by death, is Constitutional but only in cases involving the death of a victim, a defendant who is over 18 years old, and if a few other rules or criteria are followed.
The Supreme Court has approved a type of two step process used in deciding cases involving capital punishment.
Step one: a trial to settle the issue of guilt or innocence.
Step two: (if found guilty) a second hearing to decide whether the circumstances justify a sentence of death.
Due process basically means that the government can't take away "life, liberty, or property" without creating a law or giving you a chance to defend yourself in court.
There are two kinds of due process:
Procedural due process - the procedures, the methods of government action
Substantive due process - the substance, the policies of government action
The government also has broad and important police power. The police power is the authority of each State to act to protect and promote the public, health,safety, morals, and general welfare.
You also have according to former Justice Brandeis (1928) "the right to be let alone" or the right to privacy...but it is important to remember that the right to privacy is never directly stated in the constitution.
The most controversial applications of the right to privacy came up in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case.
Here is what the court decided in that case:
1st trimester - a State must recognize a women's right to an abortion, and cannot interfere with medical judgements in that manner.
2nd trimester - a State can make reasonable regulations about how, when, and where abortions can be performed but cannot prohibit the procedure.
3rd trimester - a State can choose to prohibit all abortions except those necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.