AP Test Prep: The Bill of Rights

The Antifederalists were concerned that basic individual liberties were not protected in the Constitution as ratified. The Bill of Rights was a response to this concern. Although the first ten amendments are referred to as the Bill of Rights, only the first eight pertain to specific rights that were often included in the state constitutions. The following is a summary of the Bill of Rights:

Amendment I: Prohibits the establishment of a state religion and guarantees freedom to practice relations, protects freedom of speech and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government.

Amendment II: Protects the rights to keep and bear arms, and mentions this right in the context of a "well-regulated militia."

Amendment III: Prohibits the stationing of troops in people's homes without their consent or as set down in law during wartime.

Amendment IV: Protects against unreasonable search and seizure; probable cause is required to get a warrant to conduct a search, and the warrant must describe the place to be searched and what is to be seized.

Amendment V: Provides for indictment by a grand jury for capital or serious crimes; protects against double jeopardy (a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice) and self-incrimination (a person cannot be forced to testify against him/herself); guarantees due process and eminent domain (compensation must be paid for private property taken for public use).

Amendment VI: Guarantees the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases, to be informed about charges, to confront witnesses and present witnesses in defense, and to have representation by an attorney.

Amendment VII: Provides for a trial by jury in most civil cases.

Amendment VIII: Prohibits excessive bail and fines, as well as the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.

Amendment IX: The people are not denied any rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. This amendment seems to refer to the rights covered in the first eight amendments, and recognizes that the people may be entitled to other rights. The Supreme Court, for example, based a constitutionally protected right of privacy in part on the Ninth Amendment

Amendment X: Powers not granted to the federal government nor denied to the states in the Constitution, belong to the states or to the people. The powers referred to in this amendment are known as reserved powers. The authority that states have to determine their own marriage and divorce laws is an example of a reserved power.