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The U.S. Constitution

  Term Paper ID:37752
Essay Subject:
Answers 4 questions on the U.S. Constitution and its various amendments.... More...
10 Pages / 2250 Words
3 sources, 22 Citations, APA Format

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Paper Abstract:
Discussion of the U.S. Constitution and its various amendments including the First Amendment and freedom of speech, due process, rights of the accused, unreasonable search and seizure, the freeing of slaves,

Paper Introduction:
ExaminationCompulsory Question The First Amendment to the U S Constitution isperhaps the best known of all the amendments that have been passed intolaw Essentially it represents more than a constitutional guaranteeagainst government interference with the freedom of speech and the press ora guarantee that the church and state will be separated It has becomeover time one of the country\'s primary normative and cultural symbols Hall Though the extent to which these specific rights areprotected has been interpreted in many different ways over

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Atissue here is the creation of mechanisms to protect individuals fromgovernment and to ensure that when a person is accused of a crime, he orshe has multiple opportunities to disprove the government's case. Some states did not accept this amendment because theybelieved that freeing the slave would create multiple problems. To an extent, this justifies the incarceration of prisoners andalso justifies requiring prisoners to do some type of work while in jail.The Thirteenth Amendment also gives Congress the power to enforce thisarticle legislatively, sending the message to the individual states thatregarding slavery and involuntary servitude, the federal government willprevail. Available at http://library 112391/civil_war_amendments.htm.Hall, K.L. In the Fourth Amendment, citizens are protected fromunreasonable searches and seizures with respect to their personal propertyand homes, their papers and effects, and their own bodies - unlessgovernment has probable cause to obtain warrants from a court to conductsuch searches or seize such items (Martin & Roberts, 1989). It has becomeover time one of the country's primary normative and cultural symbols(Hall, 1992). The government certainly has adirect obligation to protect national security and there have beeninstances in which the U.S. It also serves the purpose ofletting the Congress know that it has very real limits on its power. They delineated the specific areas in which thestates will have supremacy and those in which the state would not bepermitted to act. New York: Harper Collins. (2 6). This amendment also prevents government from taking theprivate property of individuals via eminent domain - unless justcompensation if provided to the individual whose property is taken. In the case of the Fifth Amendment, the protections center on theright of a person to be protected from trial absent a presentation orindictment from a grand jury (except for military cases), the right to befreed from "double jeopardy" or being tried twice for the same offense, theright to refuse to testify in a trial in which one is the accused, and theright to due process before being deprived of life or limb or property. An excellent example of the conflict between the states and thefederal Government that evokes the tension inherent in a federalist systemis the case of civil rights and specifically the case of schoolintegration. In the Sixth Amendment, an accused is guaranteed that he or she willreceive a speedy and public trial, have available the services of a lawyer,be tried by an impartial jury of citizens, to be fully informed of thecharges (and all evidence that will be used at trial), to confront andchallenges witnesses, and to have witnesses speak on his or her behalf.This seeks, said Hall (1992), to ensure that individuals whoa re chargedwith criminal offenses are not railroaded into jail and that governmentmounts a case which proves to an impartial jury of peers that the accusedis guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, whilethe First Amendment provides for freedom of the press, it is quite clearthat there are situations in which the right of the public to know and theright of the press to publish information must be weighed against nationalsecurity or other interests. The Establishment Clause was not intended to doaway with religious establishments then existing in the early UnitedStates, but it was meant to prevent any particular religion from gainingprimacy over all others (Hall, 1992). To create an appropriate federalist system that nevertheless respectsthe sovereignty of the individual states, the framers deliberately spelledout the specific powers of the executive, judicial and legislative branchesof the federal government. Federalism is, generally speaking, a form of governmentin which authority is divided between a central authority (such as thenational or federal government) and constituent political units or entities(including the 5 individual states and the internal subunits such ascounties, cities, townships, and so forth). Ultimately recognizing that this de juresegregation was not in keeping with the protected rights of Americancitizens, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren mandated thatall public schools be desegregated - sparking controversy and riots in manySouthern locales. This particular amendment was countered in some statesby the passage of poll taxes, the development of reading or writing testsas a preliminary to voting, and other measures that were designed to ensurethat the vast majority of African-Americans would not be able to vote dueto poverty or limited education (Civil War Amendments, 2 6). Taken together, these early amendments sought to create a levelplaying field and greater opportunity for former slaves. The Civil War Amendments consist of the Thirteenth,Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment, of 1868, states that all people born in theUnited States, including African-Americans, are natural citizens andtherefore in possession of the same rights as any other American. This amendment has engendered agreat deal of debate particularly about the use of capital punishment,which many opponents see as a form of 'cruel and unusual punishment" thatshould not be tolerated in a democratic society. Italso illustrates the fact that the states are largely subordinate to theauthority of the national government, particularly in cases whereconstitutional issues are at stake. ExaminationCompulsory Question 1. Essentially, it represents more than a constitutional guaranteeagainst government interference with the freedom of speech and the press ora guarantee that the church and state will be separated. Manysouthern states objected to the freeing of the slaves because of theeconomic burden that it imposed on plantation owners (Civil War Amendments,2 6). The clear goal of this kind of language reflected inArticles I, III, and IV make it quite clear that there was to be a balancein the exercise of power between the federal and state governments.Nevertheless, over time, some of the most bitter conflicts in the UnitedStates, such as the Civil War, have occurred over the division of power.While most states fully accept the obligation to refrain from layingimposts or duties on imports or exports, they are often less complacentregarding the ability of the Congress to make laws.Bonus Question 2. One could argue that this amendmentplaces a great burden on government to demonstrate that an accused isguilty and simultaneously protects the accused from unfair prosecution andlegal practices. Supreme Court has issued gag orders to preventthe press from publishing sensitive information (Hall, 1992). However, they did create mechanisms which would ultimatelyempower the U.S. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. With respect to the right to peaceful assembly, another protectedFirst Amendment right, the U.S. There is debate over whether or not the framers meant for theserights to be absolute or, in other words, protected under any and allcircumstances or if some type of balancing between personal rights andsocietal rights was implicit in the First Amendment. Congress to use its legislative ability to enforce theseamendments throughout the entire country. The dueprocess clause, as it is called, limits the ability of law enforcementagencies and the judicial system to ride roughshod over the rights ofindividuals. These guarantees arealso included in this Amendment, which seeks to establish absolutely a setof rights that all citizens can enjoy. Finally, the Ninth Amendment is a sort of "blanket" guarantee thatcitizens will have other rights protected that are not specificallyenumerated in the Constitution or its amendments. The Fifteenth Amendment, of 187 , also took up the question of votingrights and asserted that neither race, color, nor a previous condition ofservitude (i.e., slavery) could be used to deny an individual the right tovote in any state. Supreme Court has also had to determinewhether or not this right is absolute. Inessence, it tells the Congress that it cannot make any law that wouldabridge these state prerogatives. The U.S. They were notfully effective in ending discriminatory treatment of this minoritypopulation. (1992). It seems that havinglisted in some specificity the rights that must be protected on behalf ofthe people, the Framers wanted to ensure that anything left out would berecognized in later years. Today, in many cases where a violent crime has occurred,the right of the accused to confront witnesses against him or her hasresulted in a failed prosecution when witnesses are afraid to speak out forfear of retaliation. The goal of a federalistsystem is to ensure that national power does not become dominant andthereby inhibit the ability of the States to exercise their own legitimateauthority over internal matters. In many states, notably those of the American South, it waslong legal to insist on the separation of white and black Americans inschools, public places (theaters, hotels, restaurants, and so forth), andin transportation systems. Recently, controversyemerged over the government's raid on the home and office of LouisianaCongressman William Jefferson; though the FBI had a warrant and had whatthe court considered sufficient probable cause to conduct such a search andto seize cash found in Jefferson's freezer ass well as documents related tohis interactions with others, Congress claimed that he had immunity as anelected official. It seeks further to demarcate the limitsof national power while also recognizing that there will invariably beinstances in which individual States create or maintain laws that areantithetical to the Constitution (Hall, 1992). Supreme Court in Cox v.Louisiana, 1965, rejected the First Amendment claims of demonstrators whotook their protest to a crowded street, arguing that the demands of law andorder were sufficient to justify restraint by the authorities (Hall, 1992). What matters most is that the FirstAmendment ensures that all Americans have the right to worship as theychoose. ReferencesCivil War Amendments. Despitethis fact, African-Americans in many locales throughout the country andespecially in the South, continued to experience discrimination and to bedenied such rights as the right to vote through Jim Crow laws which createdcertain "tests" and other criteria as a preliminary to exercising thefranchise. In essence,this means that the law enforcement agencies must be able to demonstratethat there is a valid reason or reasons to believe that the individual hasbeen engaged in some type of illegal activity. These are the kinds of issues arising from First Amendment protection -issues that are likely to continue to be debated and subjected to scrutinyin the nation's judicial system.Compulsory Question 2. The Eighth Amendment further established rights of an accused -specifically the right to make bail and be free pending trial, to have bailset at a reasonable level, to be given fines for misconduct that are notexcessive, and to be secure in the expectation that a conviction will notresult in cruel and unusual punishment. New York: Oxford University Press.Martin, J.K. Itserved to prohibit any state from making or enforcing any laws thatinhibited the exercise of civil rights by any group or individual. In the context of the separation between church and state in the so-calledEstablishment Clause of the First Amendment, the courts have also had toweigh in to determine what can and cannot be permitted. The First Amendment to the U.S. Ideally, the Establishment Clause was meant to prevent the governmentfrom simply supporting one religion over another and thereby if notprecisely mandating participation, placing other religious groups at adistinct disadvantage. Constitution isperhaps the best known of all the amendments that have been passed intolaw. (1989). Though the extent to which these specific rights areprotected has been interpreted in many different ways over time, mostAmericans are firmly convinced that the meaning of the First Amendment isactually quite clear in that it allows citizens to speak their mind openlyor freely on any and all issues, permits the press and the media to reportnews and comment on news and newsmakers, and guarantees that the governmentwill not establish a state religion (such as the Church of England) andrequire citizens to participate in that religion. Should classified documents that directlyidentify threats to national security be made available to the press and,through publication, the general public? America and Its People. This Amendment is also significant in that it firmly states thatslavery and involuntary servitude are permissible only in cases where theyare used as a punishment for a crime whereof an individual has been dulyconvicted. & Roberts, R. Of course, the First Amendment does more than provide for the freeexercise of religion, the right to assemble peacefully, and the right topetition the government for redress of grievances. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and NinthAmendments provide multiple protections for the "people" or the citizenryof the United States. In 1865, theThirteenth Amendment was passed into law, making slavery illegal throughoutthe United States. As to what other rights are retained by thepeople, debate has been ongoing and this particular Amendment can bebroadly or narrowly interpreted by the Supreme Court (Hall, 1992).Bonus Question 1. At the same time, the courts have wrestled with the question ofwhen and if the government should step in in cases where parental religiousviews deny minor children certain types of medical treatment and if thegovernment has a responsibility to protect the lives of these young people. However, what this illustrates is that in a federalistsystem, three are instances in which the balance of power to make laws andestablish or protect right sis invested in the national government.

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