What Are My Civil Rights?

Civil rights are considered the natural rights. This set of laws was established to promote freedom and equality among the citizens of a democratic nation. Civil rights protect the citizens from discrimination based on race, class, gender, religion, age, nationality, political party, and disability.

In most countries, both civil and political rights are codified as constitutional rights. They are included and clearly stated in the bill of rights of a particular nation. The civil rights refer to the first ten amendments of the United States Bill of Rights. Just like the universality of civil rights in general, it entitles American citizens the following basic constitutional rights:

– The First Amendment protects the citizens’ rights to freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.

This is quite self explanatory. The most important declaration that prohibits the federal government from making laws that may interfere or limit people’s liberty to choose a religion, self expression (free speech and free press), and ability to organize a political assembly.

– The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure of their homes and properties.

This ensures that unreasonable search and seizure of a person’s home and property is illegal unless a search warrant, warrant of arrest, or a similar court order is presented by the law enforcer. A probable reason should be established and explained to the individual prior to any search and seizure. Police officers are even required to present a documentation of the exact location of the search and the exact description of what they are looking for.

– The Fifth Amendment protects citizens against abuse of government authority in a legal procedure.

This law secures procedural protections for criminal defendants and ensures that the government may not deprive a citizen of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

– The Sixth Amendment protects the citizens’ rights to a speedy and public trial, trial by a jury, and a right to counsel.

This is an extension of the Fifth Amendment in terms of procedural protections. The old adage that a person remains innocent until proven guilty is what this is all about. The defendant of a criminal prosecution has the right to a speedy trial which is usually gauged through the absence of unreasonable delays. It also grants the right to be represented by an attorney of his choice or self representation if the defendant is competent enough. Lastly, the right to an unbiased jury is also ratified in this amendment. Exception to jury right are petty crimes which requires only a short time of imprisonment.

– The Eighth Amendment protects citizens against federal government abuse in the form of excessive bail, excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishments.

Bail refers to the process of depositing money in order to temporarily release someone from jail until trial proper. It is illegal to require the defendant to pay excessive bails and fines. Cruel and unusual punishments such as boiling to death, burning alive, stoning, disembowelment, and other forms of torture are prohibited by law. The execution of individuals who are under 18 and/or mentally disabled is also considered as violations of the Eighth Amendment.

A lot of questions have continually emerged as to what extent the government can intervene in the ever changing issues that society has faced through out time. Although there is a remarkable improvement from the time of the Civil Rights Movement, issues concerning discrimination are still a work in progress. One thing’s for sure, if people are deprived of their civil and political rights, history has it that social unrest may be inevitable.