Justice is the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.
KRITZER LAW FIRM/A TEAM OF DEDICATED ATTORNEYS AND ASSISTANTS
GUIDING YOU TOWARD A MORE QUIESCENT MOMENT ALONG LIFE'S BUMPY ROAD
CONTACT THE KRITZER LAW FIRM VIA
TEL: (713) 455-8851;
FAX: (713) 455-3382;
Rules vs Laws
The main difference between rules and laws is the consequences associated with breaking them. While each is developed to invoke a sense of order, fair play, and safety, the weight of a law is much heavier than the weight of a rule.
Laws are like the legal version of rules. When you are a child, a parent sets rules to be followed. When you are in a society, the government sets laws to be followed. When a rule is broken, the consequences tend to be uncomfortable but mild in comparison to the breaking of a law.
Laws are enforced by a higher governmental office, usually the police and the prosecutor’s office. Laws are written in specific code so that they can be interpreted as needed. When you break a law there is legal action that follows, provided that you are caught.
Rules are more flexible and carry low end consequences. You can set up rules for games, rules for the home, even rules for fighting or being intimate with a partner. Rules are personal in nature, and they are often adjusted as the conditions and circumstances of the home change.
Laws must be passed through due process in order to take effect. A law starts off as a bill, and must go through a series of checks, balances, and votes in order to become a law. Rules are merely set and adjusted as the need arises, and should be followed out of respect for those setting the rules.
Rules help us learn to prepare for living in society. As youngsters, we tend to learn that there are rules about hitting, stealing, lying, and being wasteful. As young adults, we are held accountable for these rules by becoming law abiding citizens.
Laws are not meant to set teaching boundaries, but are there to be enforced, and are punishable by imprisonment and even death if they are broken. By the time you are old enough to contend with the law (outside of children killing children) you have already learned the process by dealing with various sets of rules.
1. Laws are the legal variation of rules.
2. Laws are enforced by governmental factors such as the police and prosecutors.
3. Rules are set by individuals.
4. Laws are set by the government.
5. Laws must go through certain processes to become laws, including a voting process.
6. Rules are set by organizations and individuals.
7. Rules are more flexible, and have lighter consequences when broken.
8. Laws are inflexible, and carry stiff penalties including imprisonment, and in some cases, death.
9. Rules are set during childhood to prepare for living in accordance with laws.
10. Laws are not a teaching tool, but a tool for keeping order in society.
John Locke and the United States Constitution
John Locke remains one of the most influential writers in the history of governmental philosophy. His writings proved instrumental to the drafting of the United States constitution by Thomas Jefferson in 1787. Although many of the founding fathers were not well versed in the political theory of Locke, his influence on Thomas Jefferson proved invaluable and eventually served as an undeniable backbone to United States government. Locke claimed that legislative bodies are to govern with blind impunity, as to not vary in the treatment of specific groups of people, but to apply the law in an even handed way toward everyone. Locke’s influence can be seen in the United State’s Constitution’s intent to be for the good of the people, as Locke stated that there is no other logical purpose for laws and legislative bodies. Locke describes the state of nature very explicitly in his writings, claiming that the nature of society is in essence, anarchic, and that although people are innately free, they are undeniably subject to the unchangeable laws of nature so that a legislature should govern according to these laws alone.
Locke goes on to describe the reasons for government itself, and exposes the many reasons men decide to leave the state of nature in exchange for a politically structured society. He argues the laws of nature are ill enforced in the state of nature itself, and that humans have a natural obligation to defend these laws by organizing themselves into societies, or legislative bodies. Locke also clarifies the conditions under which a government may be removed from power by the people. In his discussion of “social contract” Locke states that the people give up certain freedoms in exchange for a stable government that rules according to the laws of nature. However, when a government forfeits its obligation to rule according to these laws, the people have the inalienable right to destroy the government in lieu of a more appropriate legislative body. Many of Locke’s principles found their way into the democratic constitutions the world around, as well as in the supporting minds of several founding fathers of the United States, such as Thomas Jefferson.
Locke’s philosophical works, along with those of such men as Hobbes and Voltaire, served as the inspiration for a government for the people. Locke’s state of nature is in stark contrast to many of the other political philosophers of his time. While Hobbes wrote in a similar fashion about the miserable human condition, Locke argues that although the state of nature does not actively enforce its own laws, humans are still obligated to create situations in which these laws may be properly followed. No one is exempt from these laws of nature, and if a government fails to uphold them in an effective way, it is surely not a government at all. Locke’s description of the state of nature borders the ideas of anarchy, but does not explicitly use these terms. No individual of the state may deprive another of the freedom to choose, however, men are not entirely free to do what they please if it is in contrast to the laws of nature. Locke states that the state of nature leaves humanity vulnerable to continual dangers, and that men, however free they may be in this state, are constantly subject to attacks on their liberty that they are powerless to defend against. Thus the state of nature is one of constant fear and despair, and that the extreme nature of this freedom is not conducive to a functional human population in any way. Locke does not go as far as Hobbes in describing the dangers that the state of nature offers, but does use this state to his advantage when he describes the purpose of organized government. In short, Locke concludes that nature indeed has an undeniable set of laws, however, it lacks the power to defend these laws in the face of a human population. Locke argues that the state of nature itself, unbridled freedom, does exist, and that it exists in any situation in which a government acts tyrannically, illogically, or erratically in a way that contrasts the natural law. Locke argues that the nature of government is a defense against the brutal and unforgiving state of nature. In the state of nature, men are free to do as they please, but are left entirely vulnerable to the whims of more powerful humans. This violates the laws of nature that Locke claims the state of nature lacks the authority to enforce. People tend to leave the state of nature and thus give up their unbridled freedom in order to protect themselves from intrusions on their natural rights. This is the very essence of government and the main focus of Locke’s second treatise. The people have the obligation to organize into legislative bodies in order to defend the laws of nature that govern them regardless. Political societies are to govern according to the laws of nature, according to Locke, and have an obligation with the people known as a “social contract”. A political society allows the laws of nature to be enforced in an evenhanded and unbiased way toward all people, and protect the people’s freedom. Although people obviously forfeit some of their freedoms in the pursuit of a lawful society, Locke considers this sacrifice absolutely necessary for the common good, as he claims that people are not granted the right to do as they please by nature.
Political societies limit the personal freedoms of its constituents but at the same time protect their rights. Locke draws an undeniable distinction between freedom and rights. In the state of nature, one may be free to kill, but in doing so, gives up the “God given right” to live. Thus in order to protect these rights, one must forfeit some freedoms. However, Locke does insist that these sacrifices must only be given for the sake of one’s most important rights, and more specifically according to the laws of nature. Stated simply, Locke understands that the state of nature provides men with unlimited freedom, but the innate dangers in this freedom cause people to gravitate toward organized society, a place where their most sacred rights are protected in exchange for freedoms. Locke discusses the sacrifice of rights and the transition of humanity from the state of nature to organized political society. However, all political philosophies must have exceptions in order for them to make sense, and Locke’s second treatise is no different.
Locke goes on to observe the different criteria for political revolution in a society. While the people undoubtedly must give up many of their freedoms in order to produce a stable society, the government that they produce also holds a certain set of responsibilities to its people. This is part of Locke’s social contract that the people enter into with their government. According to Locke, when a government is created, it is solely responsible for enforcing natural law upon its citizens, and nothing more. The institution of laws that violate this principle, are illogical, or simply tyrannical are wholly condemned in Locke’s political philosophy. Locke claims that if the government of the people fails to uphold its responsibilities of the social contact, it is entirely appropriate for the people to remove its power and set up a government that adheres more strictly to the concept of natural law. The people have the right to dissolve any government that completely fails to uphold their interests and the interests of nature. The social contract plays a very important part in Locke’s political ideals, and is the entire basis for the idea of revolution in government. While philosophers like Thomas Hobbes argued that the state of nature, anarchy, was simply a hypothetical situation, Locke argues that this state of nature exists in any government that institutes tyrannical laws and that when a government begins to revert to the chaotic state of nature, the people retain the right to exercise the social contract and dissolve the government. Although Locke’s social contract heavily influenced the constitution, it remains entirely unclear what the grounds for violation of natural law are, so that it would be very difficult to accuse a government of failing to uphold them. Locke’s works have been applied to several revolutions, including the American and French revolutions, in which the people asserted that it was in their best interest to institute a new government. The social contact, while entirely subjective, has worked as a justification for revolution throughout history, and remains a staple of many democratic constitutions even today. John Locke was a brilliant political philosopher that was centuries ahead of his time in his theories on government. In his second treatise he outlines many conditions for a functional and proper government that will serve the best interests of humanity. Locke’s second treatise exclusively deals with the state of nature and the laws of nature. He details the anarchic tendencies of the state of nature and explains why it is not sufficient to provide all humans with their unalienable rights. Locke further explains why humans tend to gravitate toward a governmental system and away from the state of nature. Although natural state provides men with unlimited freedom and equality, and deprives them of their rights because there can be no legitimate repercussions for violating natural law. Thus people enter into a social contract with their leaders, sacrificing some of their freedoms for their rights.
This leads Locke to his final conclusion on the nature of government. When people enter into a social contract with their government and agree to sacrifice their rights, their government enters into a certain level of responsibility to its people as well. If the government fails to uphold the interests of its people, or it begins legislating in a way that regresses back to natural law, the people retain the right to remove their collective power from the government and set up a new one in its place. Though many consider Locke’s works to be synonymous with Democracy, his ideals could be applied to a functional monarchy as well, or even a benevolent dictatorship. As long as a government can effectively maintain its social contact and is chosen by the majority of the people, Locke’s philosophy leaves much of the varieties of government available for usage. Locke’s political philosophy can be applied to everything from the American Revolution to democracy abroad, and everything in between. Locke succeeds in placing every revolution in history within the context of his social contract principle, and in doing so; he brings to light the very nature of humanity.
A Short History of US Law and Constitution
Law is generally defined as a system of rules and regulations that are equal for everyone and are enforced through a set of institutions. The political system, economy and society are shaped by it in numerous ways and serves as a primary social mediator of relations between people.
The US constitution is its supreme law and is the base of the legal authority for the existence of US and the federal government of the United States.
The history of law is very old and it began since the start of mankind even before the time when written laws and courts had ever existed. Ancient Greece, Egypt and in Babylonia of Mesopotamia region thousands of years back had their laws. The US started a movement for its constitution after getting independence from the British. Customary laws dictated human actions for a long time by reflecting the conduct of people to each other. The natural law was discovered following the customary law.
The United States Constitution is the shortest and oldest written constitution still in use by any nation in the world today. The framework for the organization of the US government and for the relationship of the federal government to the states and its people was provided in the constitution. Although the Declaration of independence was a statement of principles but it did not form a government or a political framework to show how the governance would be done. The US had been practicing governance for a long time before the Declaration of Independence but the concept of sovereignty of people in the republic was new.
There were also commercial and trade laws that existed in the Middle Ages through which trade and transactions in Europe were governed. They were suitable for certain standards for normalizing the international trade. The constitution of the United States was the source for establishing a strong central or federal government with broad powers to regulate relations between the states and with sole responsibility in such areas as foreign affairs and defense.
The 20th century historians are of a view that legal history is a more contextualized mode that is more in line with the thoughts of social historians. The US constitution has three branches - executive judicial and. Legislative. In addition, it has two houses – upper house and lower house. The case law and civil codes were achieved by analyzing different aspects of the case results. Different parameters like social science investigation, statistical methods, analyzing class differences, petitioners and players in varied legal processes were used by legal historians to evaluate the case histories.
Jefferson, Thomas, 1743–1826, 3d President of the United States (1801–9), author of the Declaration of Independence, and apostle of agrarian democracy.
Jefferson was born on Apr. 13, 1743, at "Shadwell," in Goochland (now in Albemarle) co., Va. The vicinity, at that time considered a western outpost, was to remain his lifelong home, and from boyhood he absorbed the democratic views of his Western countrymen. After graduating from the College of William and Mary (1762), he studied law under George Wythe.
In the colonial house of burgesses Jefferson was (1769–75) a leader of the patriot faction. He was a founding member of the Virginia Committee of Correspondence, and in A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774), prepared for the First Virginia Convention, he brilliantly expounded the view that Parliament had no authority in the colonies and that the only bond with England was voluntary allegiance to the king. Although never an effective public speaker, he won a reputation as a draftsman of resolutions and addresses.
A delegate to the Second Continental Congress (1775–76), he served as a member of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. That document, except for minor alterations by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and some others made on the floor of Congress, was wholly the work of Jefferson. In spirit it reflects his debt to English political theorists, particularly John Locke, and to French and other continental philosophers.
Jefferson returned to the Virginia legislature in the hope of being able to translate his ideals into reality in the establishment of a new state government. He urged the abolition of entail and primogeniture to prevent the continuance of an aristocracy; both practices were abolished, although primogeniture existed until 1785. His bill for establishing religious freedom, grounded in the belief that a person's opinions cannot be coerced, was not successful until 1786, when James Madison was able to carry part of the Jeffersonian program to completion.
In 1779, Jefferson succeeded Patrick Henry as governor of Virginia. He served through the trying last years of the American Revolution when Virginia was invaded by the British, and, hampered by lack of financial and military resources, experienced great difficulty. His conduct as governor was investigated in 1781, but he was completely vindicated.
Postwar Republican Leader
In 1783–84 he was again in the Continental Congress, where he drafted a plan for a decimal system of coinage and drew up a proposed ordinance for the government of the Northwest Territory, which, although not then adopted, was the basis for the Ordinance of 1787. In 1785 he succeeded Franklin as minister to France, and witnessed the beginning (1789) of the French Revolution, to which he was sympathetic. His unsuccessful attempt, with John Adams, to negotiate a trade treaty with England left him convinced of that country's essential selfishness. On his return he became (1790) Secretary of State. Though absent when the Constitution was drafted and adopted, Jefferson gave his support to a stronger central government and to the Constitution, particularly with the addition of the Bill of Rights. He failed to realize the power that conservatives had attained in his absence, and he did not seem aware at first of the threat to agrarian interests posed by measures advocated by Alexander Hamilton. He would call himself neither a Federalist nor an Anti-Federalist, and was anxious to secure unity and cooperation in the new government. Jefferson did not begin to differ with Hamilton until they clashed as to the way to persuade England to release the Northwest Territory forts, still held in violation of the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Jefferson favored the application of economic pressure by forbidding imports from England, but Hamilton objected, fearing that the resulting loss of revenue would endanger his plans for the nation's financial structure. Jefferson next opposed Hamilton by declaring against his Bank of the United States scheme on the ground that the Constitution did not specifically authorize it, rejecting the doctrine of "implied powers," invoked by Hamilton's supporters. In both these encounters Hamilton, to Jefferson's chagrin, emerged the victor. Fearing a return to monarchist ideals, if not to actual monarchy, Jefferson became virtual leader of the Anti-Federalist forces. He drew to himself a group of like-minded men who began to call themselves Republicans—a group to which the present Democratic party traces its origin. An organization was developed, and the National Gazette, edited by Philip Freneau, was established (1791) to disseminate Republican sentiments. Jefferson and Hamilton, from being suspicious of each other, became openly antagonistic, and President George Washington was unable to reconcile them. In 1793, Jefferson left the cabinet. Later he bitterly criticized Jay's Treaty, which compromised the issues with Great Britain in ways outlined by Hamilton. Jefferson's party was able to elect him Vice President in 1796, when that office was still filled by the person who ran second in the presidential race. He took little part in the administration but presided over the Senate and wrote A Manual of Parliamentary Practice (1801). His followers kept up their agitation and under Jefferson's direction extended the party's following both territorially and numerically, while the Federalists drifted into dissension. The passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts immensely stimulated newspaper discussion, and Jefferson drafted, in protest against these laws, the Kentucky Resolutions (see Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions), the first statement of the states' rights interpretation of the Constitution.
The Republicans triumphed easily at the polls in what is sometimes called "the Revolution of 1800," but in the Electoral College vote, Aaron Burr (who had been slated for the office of Vice President) was found to have tied Jefferson for President. The choice was automatically left to the House of Representatives, where Jefferson was elected after a long deadlock, largely because Hamilton advised the Federalists to support Jefferson as less dangerous than Burr. Jefferson was the first President inaugurated in Washington, D.C., a city he had helped to plan. He instituted a republican simplicity in the new capital, cut expenditures in all branches of government, replaced Federalist appointees with Republicans, and sought to curb the powers of the judiciary, where he felt that the Federalists were attempting to entrench their philosophy. He believed that the federal government should be concerned mostly with foreign affairs, leaving the states and local governments free to administer local matters. Despite his contention that the Constitution must be interpreted strictly, he pushed through the Louisiana Purchase, even though such an action was nowhere expressly authorized. His eager interest in the West and in exploration had already led him to plan and organize the Lewis and Clark expedition. He held that West Florida was included in the Louisiana Purchase, but his attempts to secure Spanish agreement caused rifts in the party and made him the butt of sarcastic attacks by John Randolph in Congress. During his second administration, however, the chief difficulties resulted from attacks on neutral American shipping by warring Britain and Napoleonic France. Jefferson placed his faith in diplomacy backed by economic pressure as represented first by the Nonimportation Act (1806) and then by the Embargo Act of 1807. To enforce them, unfortunately, meant the impoverishment of classes that had supported him and the infringement of the individual liberty he cherished. Shortly before he left office a rebellious people forced him to yield in his aims, although he maintained that the embargo had not been in effect long enough to achieve its objective.
After 1809, Jefferson lived in retirement at his beloved Monticello, although he often advised his successors, Madison and James Monroe. One of his cherished ambitions was attained when he was able to bring about the founding of the Univ. of Virginia (see Virginia, Univ. of). President of the American Philosophical Society (1797–1815), Jefferson was a scientist, an architect, and a philosopher-statesman, vitally interested in literature, the arts, and every phase of human activity. He passionately believed that a people enlightened by education, which must be kept free, could govern themselves better under democratic-republican institutions than under any other system. After the death (1784) of his wife Martha Wayles Skelton, Jefferson did not remarry. During his White House years, Dolley Madison served as his First Lady. In the 1990s long-repeated rumors that he had fathered a child or children by the slave Sally Hemings, his wife's half-sister, appeared to be supported by DNA research. Although the subject remained controversial, in 2000 the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation concluded after an exhaustive study that Jefferson was almost certainly the father of one and quite probably of all six of Hemings's children. Some admirers of Jefferson hold that his younger brother, Randolph, is the more likely father of Hemings's descendants.
The Articles of the Constitution
The main body of the Constitution is made up of seven articles. The Articles explain how the government works. They also carefully describe the rules for electing government officials, like Senators and the President. The Constitution is based on the separation of powers. It divides power between the three separate branches of the government. They are the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. Article I The role of the legislative branch is discussed in Article I. The legislative branch includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. Together they are called Congress. Members of the House of Representatives are often referred to as members of Congress, but Senators are always called Senators. Article II Rules for how the President and the Vice President are elected are defined in Article II. It also defines the responsibilities and powers of the President and the executive branch. Article III The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court and lower courts. Article III states that Supreme Court Judges can hold office for life, unless they are removed, impeached, or convicted of a crime. It also says that anyone accused of committing a federal crime has the right to a trial by jury. Article IV Article IV discusses the relationship between states and the federal government. It also outlines the rules for admitting new states to the Union. Article V The Founding Fathers realized that over time, the government might need to make changes, called amendments, to the Constitution. Two thirds of both houses of Congress must agree to propose an amendment. It takes a positive vote by three fourths of the states to make an amendment law. Article VI Article VI states that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. Federal and state officers and judges must uphold the Constitution. Article VII The names of the men who signed and ratified, or approved the Constitution, are in Article VII. It confirms the establishment of the Constitution.
The 10 Amendments and What They Protect
The First Amendment: Basic Liberties The First Amendment is perhaps the most important part of the Bill of Rights. It protects five of the most basic liberties. They are freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government to right wrongs. These were the guarantees that the Antifederalists missed most in the new Constitution. Freedom of Religion. Freedom of religion means that the government may not force you to accept one set of religious beliefs nor may it interfere with the way you worship. One of the most heated debates of our time involves the issue of prayer and schools. Do students have the right to pray in class? Or would a prayer interfere with another student's rights "not" to pray? A number of cases have been brought before the Supreme Court to settle this matter. The Supreme Court has held that prayers or even a required moment of silence without a clear secular purpose would violate the principles of the First Amendment. Freedom of Speech. This freedom entitles American citizens to say what they think, provided they do not intentionally hurt someone else's reputation by making false accusations. Neither may they make irresponsible statements deliberately harmful to others, such as yelling, "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. There are many issues about which Americans disagree, from child-rearing practices to baseball teams to Presidential candidates. Freedom of speech enables people to state their opinions openly to try to convince others to change their minds. The First Amendment also gives you the right to disagree with what others say without fear of punishment by the government authorities. However, if you make an outrageous statement, such as, "The earth is flat," free speech will not keep people from making fun of you. If you express an unpopular opinion — for example, that students do not get enough homework — don't be surprised if your classmates avoid you. The First Amendment does not prevent social or peer pressure to conform to what others think. Freedom of the Press. This freedom makes it possible for Americans to keep informed about what is going on in government. It helps them to be responsible citizens. Reporters and editors can criticize the government without the risk of punishment, provided they do not deliberately tell lies. Newspapers, magazines, and books, as well as television and movie scripts, do not have to be submitted for government inspection before they are published. This censorship would violate the First Amendment. Freedom of Assembly. This freedom makes it possible for Americans to join clubs or political parties, even if those groups represent unpopular views. Because of the First Amendment, people can join groups to promote animal rights, the nuclear freeze, or conservation. They can join groups to protest government intervention in Haiti, imported clothes and shoes, toxic wastes, or aid to Serbia or Bosnia. By sharing common interests, Americans can learn to work together. There are groups devoted to the interests of young people. Scout troops and 4-H clubs are but two examples. Freedom to Petition. This important freedom allows people to tell the government what they think is needed. They can try to prevent the government from acting in a certain way. They can complain to the government without fear of penalty when things aren't going the way they should. For example, if people dump garbage near your school, you and your parents can petition the government to clean it up. Freedom to petition helps the government to clean it up. Freedom to petition can also let the government know how well it is doing its job. The Second Amendment: The Right to Bear Arms The Second Amendment guarantees individual states the right to maintain "a well regulated militia," and citizens the right to "keep and bear arms." Because criminals often used unlicensed weapons to hurt others, some people have urged the national government to control the sale of guns. Other people have argued that gun control is a violation of the Second Amendment. The Third Amendment: Housing Troops The Third Amendment pledges that in peacetime, citizens will never have to keep soldiers in their homes without consenting. Before the Revolution, the British forced Americans to provide lodging and food for their troops. The colonists bitterly resented this intrusion on their privacy as well as the cost of feeding hungry soldiers. The Fourth Amendment: Searchers and Seizure The Fourth through Eighth Amendments concern the rights of people suspected of crime. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from improper searches of their bodies, possessions, or homes. It requires that a detailed warrant be issued by a judge listing what can be searched. There has to be a good reason for the search. For example, suppose the police knew that someone in your school was selling drugs. The Constitution does not let them search the home of every student. In fact, they could not search the homes of even one or two without a court order. The Fifth Amendment: Rights of the Accused, Due Process of the Law, and Eminent Domain Rights of the Accused. The Fifth Amendment protects the rights of anyone accused of a crime. It assumes that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. In some countries, exactly the opposite is true. Suspects must prove that they are innocent. When a person is accused of a crime for which the punishment could be death, the Fifth Amendment requires that a "grand jury" look at the charges before that person can be brought trial. A grand jury is a group of citizens who decide if there is enough evidence to try a person. It is intended to prevent people from being falsely accused of a serious crime. Today, grand juries consider most serious criminal charges. The Fifth Amendment also states that the person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. The section of the Fifth Amendment that has received the most publicity is the guarantee against "self-incrimination." This means people cannot be forced to testify against themselves. Under the Fifth Amendment, law enforcement officials must produce the evidence necessary to convict a person of a crime. The accused person cannot be made to provide it. In earlier times, people were tortured until they confessed to crimes they may not even have committed. The guarantee against self-incrimination makes sure that unfair pressure cannot be used to make a person confess. In the 1950's, this section of the Fifth Amendment sparked a public uproar. Notorious criminals accused of having ties with the underworld claimed the Fifth Amendment protected them from having to testify. If they had denied those accusations, they probably would have been found guilty of "perjury," or lying under oath. Perjury is punishable by law. If they had told the truth, they would have risked punishment. Instead, they refused to testify on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves. Law enforcement officials had to come up with evidence against them or free them. The right to remain silent also protects innocent people. During the 1950's, the government became concerned about Communists. Politicians held hearings in which people were asked which organizations they had joined and who their friends were. If they answered that they had been involved in certain groups or friendships, they were accused of being Communists. At times, the accusations became wild and unfounded. Many people took refuge in the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Some, perhaps, were Communists who might have wished to see the government overthrown. Others, however, were innocent citizens who had been caught up in a hysterical movement. The Constitution protected them against ruthless accusations. Due Process of the Law. Another section of the Fifth Amendment holds that "no one can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." In other words, the government must follow certain legal procedures before deciding on a penalty. It can't jail a person because it suspects that the person committed a crime. It must prove the accusation by following certain rules and methods. However, "due process of law" is a rather vague and general term. As times have changed, so has its meaning. In the 1930's, photographers and newsreel cameramen were allowed to record trials. (There was no television news.) The trial of a man accused of kidnapping the aviator Charles Lindbergh's child took on the atmosphere of a circus. Lawyers and witnesses became more interested in creating publicity than in determining justice. They began to make exaggerated claims. In later years, to discourage publicity stunts and other distractions, only artists and reporters were allowed to be present in court. Now some judges permit television cameras to record trials. How might the presence or absence of cameras affect a defendant's right to due process? Eminent Domain. Finally, the Fifth Amendment requires the government to pay citizens when it takes over their property for a public use. The government's right to take this property is called "eminent domain." Suppose the state wanted to build a highway which would run right through your residence. It would have to pay the owners a reasonable price for the property. The government could force you to move, but at least it would have to provide you with the money to relocate. The Sixth Amendment: Fair and Speedy Trials The Sixth Amendment provides more requirements for a fair trial in criminal cases. It guarantees a speedy, public trial by an impartial jury in the area where the crime was committed. The defendant must be able to question the accusers and to force favorable witnesses to testify. The accused has a right to a lawyer. How would you feel if you were falsely accused of cheating on a test? Suppose you had no idea who was accusing you. How could you question your accuser? How could you defend yourself? Your reputation could be hurt if you had to wait a long time before the matter was cleared up. Wouldn't you want a chance to prove your innocence? This is why the Sixth Amendment is so important. The Seventh Amendment: Jury Trials The Seventh Amendment guarantees that Americans will receive a jury trial in civil (as opposed to criminal) cases involving property worth more than $20. Today, however, people do not bring such cases to federal courts unless a much larger sum of money is involved. The Eighth Amendment: Bails, Fines, and Punishments The Eighth Amendment protects people from having to pay unreasonably high "bail" in order to be released from prison before they go to trial. Bail is money given to pledge that a person accused of a crime will appear for trial. The Eighth Amendment also protects people from unreasonably high fines. Finally, it outlaws cruel and unusual punishment. This requirement, as well as the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against self-incrimination, protects citizens from the use of torture. Some people have argued that the death penalty is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments: Reserved Powers The last two amendments address the liberties of citizens and the rights of states. The Ninth Amendment states that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights do not define all of the fundamental rights people have. Such rights exist whether or not they are defined. The Tenth Amendment makes a similar claim concerning the rights of the states. It holds that the states and the people have powers that are set aside and not listed item by item. These powers are called "reserved powers." They can be contrasted with "express powers," which are specifically defined in the Constitution. In this way the Constitution allows for growth and change. With the invention of radio, movies, television, automobiles, jet planes, computers, and satellites, what rights might the states and the people now claim? How else can the Constitution be kept up to date?
The matters discussed in this website are
intended to provide general information about the matters discussed. They are not legal
advice or legal opinions on specific legal cases. No reliance therefore should be placed
upon the information other than general information as everyone's legal matter is
specifically different. Any e-mail received by my firm or sent by my firm is not to be
intended to create any attorney-client relationship or attorney-client privilege.
Not Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, We Are A Debt Relief Agency.
We Help People File for Bankruptcy Relief Under the Bankruptcy Code
Kritzer Law Firm is powered by Network Solutions
Kritzer Law Firm gets recognized by Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yellowbook, Switchboard, Yellowpages
definition of justice courtesy of Webster's dictionary
Laws versus Rules article courtesy of DifferenceBetween.net
John Locke article courtesy of ArticlesFactory.com
A Short History of US Law and Constitution article written by taamiv
A Short History of US Law and Constitution article written by TheFreeDictionary.com