Justifying the Bill of Rights
Professor Maria Toy, J.D.
The amendments to the United States Constitution play an important role in the history, politics and law of our country. When the Bill of Rights was originally proposed to the First Federal Congress in 1789 by James Madison, the intent was for the amendments to be integrated into the original text of the Constitution. As we now know, Madison’s idea did not prevail and Congress decided the first ten amendments and the subsequent seventeen be appended (BYU Journal of Public Law [Volume 25], January 1, 2011).
The amendments are an integral part of the Constitution, the framework of the incomparable American justice ...view middle of the document...
It is this desire that made the checks and balances system so important. The Continental Congress did not want another King or Queen. They wanted a fair, representative system in which the American people had the ultimate say in electing leaders and voting on laws. The amendment process is not easy and obviously has not happened often in history. The constitutional framers must have been confident in the rules that they created to ensure that a potential amendment would not be taken lightly. Temporary political trends or popular whims are not enough to create a change to our constitution; a major, lasting change must be needed and agreed upon by all. This way, our governing document can keep up with the times while still remaining strong.
Several amendments in the Bill of Rights provide protection to defendants, and in my opinion the Sixth Amendment provides the most. “The Sixth Amendment is the repository of some of the oldest rights protected by the Constitution which guarantees no less than eight rights to criminal defendants which are: the right to a speedy trial; the right to a public trial; the right to an impartial jury; the right to a trial in the judicial district in which the crime was committed; the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; the right to confront witnesses; and the right to have assistance of counsel for one’s defense” (George Mason Law Review, 2011).
If not for the Sixth Amendment, persons accused of crimes could be treated inhumanely in a number of ways. For example, without having the right to a speedy trial, defendants could spend an indefinite period of time imprisoned before receiving a trial. Unqualified or inept representation in court, as well as a biased or unfair jury could also be undesirable results if not for this amendment. Having laws in place protecting defendants allows our nation to maintain a fair criminal justice system. This system is a critical part of a functioning democratic government.
On the other hand, the Fourth Amendment provides protection for victims in several critical ways. The Fourth Amendment protects people from having the government improperly take property, papers, or people without a valid warrant based on probable cause. This amendment is more commonly known as protection against unlawful search and seizure. Authorities are prevented from arbitrarily seizing property without having a valid investigative reasoning. In theory, without this amendment, authorities would have free reign to search and take whatever they see fit and effectively victimize potentially innocent civilians. Cases could be “fixed”, innocent citizens could be falsely accused with fabricated evidence, and prosecutions could be forced through the system by any means if this amendment did not exist.
The Constitution has an effect on my daily life in numerous ways. Arguably the most familiar constitutional “right” among Americans is the freedom of speech dictated in the First...