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West Michigan

The bill of rights criminal amendments protects citizens from the government

Criminal Amendments In The Bill Of Rights

The wisdom of our founding fathers is fully on display when it comes to the constitutional rights given to those who are facing criminal charges. There are numerous criminal amendments in the bill of rights.  Our Constitution protects the fundamental rights of those in the criminal justice system. 

These rights include:

  • A pretrial hearing for felony cases by a grand jury.
  • Allows suspects to refuse to answer questions that can be used against them.
  • A fair process during hearings
  • Compensation for people whose property is taken by the government.
  • Protection against unreasonable search and seizures.
  • The equal protection under the law
  • No second trial for same crime (Double Jeopardy)
  • A speedy trial by a jury that is impartial
  • The accused must be informed of the charges and evidence.
  • Set requirements that the government must follow for search warrants.
  • Fair proceedings are promised to people who are facing a loss of liberty, property and life.
  • The accused must be present when witnesses testify against them.
  • Allows the accused to have a lawyer and call witnesses in defense
  • The sentence must suit the crime
  • Reasonable and consistent bail must be set by courts.

The Bill of Rights is an extremely important component of our United States Constitution. It was designed to protect the basic rights of our citizens. When this document was originally created it only consisted of ten amendments. Over the next 200 hundred years, an additional seventeen amendments were added.

The term criminal justice refers to all proceedings and almost everything that happens from the time a person is only suspected of breaking the law and through the complete prosecution of the case is over. For example, the formal arrest, grand jury indictments, arraignment, preliminary hearings and trials are all part of the term criminal justice.

The United States government and all state governments cannot violate the criminal amendments found in the bill of rights. The State of Michigan has adopted and expanded all the criminal amendments found in the US Constitution into the Michigan Constitution.

The Fifth Amendment

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service of time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor deprived of life liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the most important ones. It gives all people due process of law. It promises people they will not be subject to double jeopardy. A person who pleads not guilty, goes to trial and is found not guilty and therefore acquitted of the crime cannot be prosecuted a second time. The Fifth Amendment does not allow person to be forced to testify against themselves.  If you watch a lot of crime shows on TV or read John Grisham novels, this is what is meant by a person “taking the fifth.” A person who is a suspect of committing a crime will never have to testify, issue a statement or be forced to sign a confession during their criminal prosecution. People that are arrested for a crime are told of their protections found in the Fifth Amendment when they are given their Miranda Rights.

For additional reading on the Fifth Amendment please check out this article.

The founding fathers thankfully didn’t stop after the Fifth Amendment, they also provided us with great protection found in the Fourth Amendment.  This amendment covers arrest and search and seizure.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

For additional research on the fourth amendment, you can visit this article here by the Cornell University.

For addition reading check out this wonderful book called a Flame of Fire.

The Sixth Amendment (Protecting The Right Of The Accused)

This amendment covers the right of the accused to enjoy a speedy and public trial. It calls for a person charged with a crime to have a trial by jury and allows for the accused to have an attorney represent them. They are given the right to be present when evidence and witnesses testify against them. Finally, the defendant is given the right to be informed of the charges and evidence against then.

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

For additional reading check out this well right article on the right to counsel after Montejo v. Louisiana or do a Google search and find another outstanding piece called Disentangling of the Sixth Amendment.

Eighth Amendment

This Amendment covers bail that is excessive. This is a bit ambiguous.  What exactly is excessive? Is a $100,000 bail for a 93-day misdemeanor excessive? Sure! But in a murder case probably not. The eighth Amendment also bans handing out cruel and unusual punishment. This means a person can not be sentenced too harshly. A person who is in jail or prison is not allowed to be beaten or denied needed medical attention. Advocates of abolishing the death penalty argue that it should be banned because of this amendment. In generally, the concept of cruel and unusual punishment is talking about acts of mutilation and torture such as the severing of a person’s feet or hands.

The 8th Amendment reads, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Fourteenth Amendment

The fourteenth Amendment demands that states when prosecuting a person suspected of committing a crime, have to abide by the rights in the United States Constitution. States governments can give more rights, but not less rights than those found in the US Constitution.  The Fourteenth Amendment demands that state provide due process of in all criminal cases and give equal protection to all citizens. This amendment also guarantees that no one will be given preferential treatment because a person works for the government. It protects people from being treated differently because of their age or race.

How A Criminal Defense Attorney Applies The Bill Of Rights

I use these criminal amendments in the bill of rights in my line of work. If you are facing criminal charges, you need to hire an attorney who will make sure your rights are protected. 

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