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The Impact of the First Ten Amendments on Criminal

January 4, 2023 0 Comments

The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, have had a significant impact on the criminal justice system in the United States. These amendments establish many fundamental rights that are protected from government infringement, including the right to a fair and speedy trial, the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to counsel, and the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The Fourth Amendment, for example, protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and requires that warrants be supported by probable cause. This has had a significant impact on the way that law enforcement conducts investigations and makes arrests, as it limits the ability of the police to search and seize property without proper justification.

The Fifth and Sixth Amendments also have significant implications for the criminal justice system. The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from self-incrimination, meaning that a person cannot be forced to testify against themselves in a criminal trial. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel, meaning that defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney during criminal proceedings. These amendments help to ensure that individuals accused of crimes are treated fairly and have the opportunity to defend themselves.

The Bill of Rights has played a critical role in shaping the criminal justice system in the United States, and continues to be an important source of protection for individuals accused of crimes.

The Impact of the First Ten Amendments on Criminal
Discuss how the first 10 amendments (except #7, you can skip that) have impacted criminal law in the U.S. since its inception. You will have to include the 14th amendment as well. Go through each amendment and find cases to support your position. Be sure to include (but absolutely not limited to) how they have impacted criminal law.
A couple of these amendments may take some thinking as to how they have been used to define, shape and impact the criminal law. Be not afraid to go outside the text book for sources. Show me you not only understand what the amendments say and do, but how the Supreme Court has used them to define our criminal law. Remember, the makeup of the Court and the temper of the time has changed so you may have to indicate historical facts in interpreting the amendment over time.
An example:
1st Amendment: “…freedom of speech…peaceably to assemble..
Discuss how this amendment impacts decisions (think “expressive conduct”, FUNDAMENTAL right to privacy (emphasis added), flag burning etc.
10th Amendment: “reserved power to States or to the People”
Discuss how this amendment impacted “privacy” and discuss any cases.

The United States bill of rights forms an important component of the US constitution and it was designed to promote its citizens basic rights. The purpose of having these amendments in place is to ensure that American citizens are treated fairly when arrested or suspected to have committed any crime (Rainer, 2018). In this discussion, the idea is to demonstrate how the first 10 amendments of the bill of rights and the fourteenth amendment have impacted criminal law within the United States since they were introduced.
The First Amendment
This amendment gives the American citizens the freedom of speech, press and religion while also giving them the right to protest peacefully and petition the government (Weaver, Hancock & Knechtle, 2017). The actual meaning of the first amendment has been subject to continued interpretation over the years through various Supreme Court cases. For instance, among the common ways this amendment has been used is the flag burning as a way of protest. This comes out clearly in the case, Texas v. Johnson (1989) where the US Supreme Court invalidated the prohibitions against desecrating the flag (Weaver, Hancock & Knechtle, 2017). During this ruling, Justice William Brennan argued that the first amendment protects an individual from burning the flag as a way of protest under the freedom of speech. The decision was based on the idea that the flag is a symbol of freedom and this freedom only exists if citizens are allowed to exercise their freedoms (Weaver, Hancock & Knechtle, 2017). As such, as long as the flag protects and individual’s freedom to dissent, then prohibiting against desecrating the flag would be denying that freedom.
The Second Amendment
This amendment gives the American citizens the right to poses firearms. However, with recent development involving gun misuses that have led to the introduction of the gun control legislation, this amendment has often been a subject of debate in regards to individual’s rights to own or carry firearms (Murray, 2018). For instance, in the case, Presser v. Illinois (1886) the court ruled that the second amendment was only applicable to federal governments and didn’t prevent state governments from establishing regulations that would regulate its citizens gun ownership or use (Murray, 2018). However, in the case, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that an individual’s right to private gun ownership and use for self-defense purposes was protected by the second amendment (Murray, 2018). Murray notes that the court went further ahead to suggest some presumptively lawful regulations such as banning felons and mentally ill from possessing firearms, prohibit of carrying firearms to public places like schools or workplace, among others. Today there is an open public debate in regards to gun control measures and the second amendment, given the fact that this is a period when mass shootings are becoming a common occurrence in the American society.
The Third Amendment
According t this amendment, the government cannot force private citizens to house solder in their homes during peaceful times while in times of war, solders can only be housed in private homes after approval by congress (Friedland, 2013). In other words, this amendment was established to protect private citizens from harassment by the military especially during periods of war. However, with the growth of American military to become a global military superpower, it has eliminated the likelihood of warfare within the United States which means that this amendment is rarely utilized or invoked in a court of law (Friedland, 2013). Nonetheless, it has been used on several occasions to establish the right to privacy as implied within the constitution.
One example whether the third amendment has be applied is in the case Mitchell v. City of Henderson, Nevada of 2015 where in 2011 Nevada police called Anthony Mitchell’s home and informed him that they would want to occupy his home to have a tactical advantage in regards to a domestic violence case they were investigating at his neighbors home (Friedland, 2013). However, Mitchell objected to this request which resulted in his arrest. In his defense, Mitchell argued that his third amendment had been violated but the court ruled that it didn’t apply since the request came from the police and not the solders (Friedland, 2013). This ruling clearly shows that though ordinary citizens are protected from unreasonable occupation and harassment by the military, they should corporate with investigating police officers especially in situations where life might be in danger.
The Fourth Amendment
This amendment protects American citizens from unreasonable searches or seizure of their property by law enforcement officers (Schulhofer, 2012). However, this amendment doesn’t prevent law enforcement officers from conducting searches and seizures, other than those found within the law to be unreasonable. The court has also come up with more interpretation of the fourth amendment, one such incidence being in the case Weeks v. United States (1914) where the court established the exclusionary rule (Schulhofer, 2012). This rule which falls under the fourth amendment states that any evidence that is obtained by the investigating offices through unconstitutional means cannot be administered in court. Before this ruling was made, it had become a common practice for investigating bodies to violate the fourth amendment while collecting evidence and administer it in court with no consequence (Schulhofer, 2012). With the exclusionary rule in place, it means that an accused person cannot be tried in court with evidence that has been obtained illegally.
The Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment is concerned with highlighting the important protections for persons accused of committing crime under the US criminal justice system (Feerick, 2013). Some of these protections may include protection from prosecution for crimes until an individually is legally indicted by a jury. It also involves protecting from being prosecuted twice for the same case, testifying by force, among others. However, despite these protections existing, citizens often lack knowledge about this amendment and in some cases law enforcement officers have often taken advantage of this loophole. As such, the supreme court in the case, Miranda v. Arizona (1966) ruled that police officers should issue the statement “You have the right to remain silent.” when carrying out an arrest (Feerick, 2013). Putting such measures in place ensures that suspects are aware of the reason for their arrest.
The Sixth Amendment
This amendment ensures that some individual rights during prosecution for any criminal activity are upheld (Feerick, 2013). For instance, the amendment gives a suspect the right to undergoing through a public trial without any unnecessary delay. In addition, it also grants a suspect the right of representation by a lawyer when they desire one. Suspects also have the right to undergo through impartial trial by a jury among other rights (Feerick, 2013). This amendment gives suspect the right to be tried within a proper trial venue. For instance, in the case, of Beavers v. Henkel (1904) the ruling of the Supreme Court was that the location of trial should be determined by the location where the crime occurred (Feerick, 2013). The ruling goes further to state that in situations where an offense was committed in multiple judicial districts or states, then a trail can be held in any of these jurisdictions. However, in incidences where the crime occurs in beyond the United States borders or at sea, congress has the powers to set the ideal for the trial to take place (Feerick, 2013). This amendment therefore has a positive impact on the criminal justice system as it enhances the rights to a just trial on the suspect.
The Eighth Amendment
In this amendment, it protects American citizens from being subjected to excessive bail or fines when in trial or being subjected to unusual and cruel punishment while under custody. The most commonly cited section of this amendment is the one to deal with prohibition against unusual and cruel punishment (Feerick, 2013). The eight amendments prohibit torture as an interrogation method and advocates for healthy and decent prison conditions. For instance, in the case Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), the US supreme court ruled that any deliberate indifference to an inmate’s serious medical needs amounts to unnecessary infliction of pain which is in violation of the eight amendment (Feerick, 2013). As such, this amendment impacts criminal law in the sense that it protects accused person from excessive bails and fines as well as protecting the rights of prisoners from unusual and cruel punishment.
The Ninth Amendment
This amendment is put in place to ensure that while some rights are not specifically listed to be for the American people within other bill of right provisions, these rights shouldn’t be violated (Feerick, 2013). The US Supreme Court often uses the ninth amendment as a binding authority to protect the implicit rights that are hinted at and aren’t explicated anywhere else within the constitution. Feerick (2013) gives the example of the implicit rights protected within the ninth amendment includes an individual’s right to privacy as outlined in the supreme case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Other rights under this amendment are an individual’s right to travel as well as the right for an individual to be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.
The 10th Amendment
This amendment seeks to provide a clear definition of the power divisions between the state and federal government (Feerick, 2013). For instance, the tenth amendment was very relevant in 2016 in matters to do with marijuana laws where at the federal level, consumption of marijuana is considered illegal but at the state level, some states have legalized it (Feerick, 2013). Another example where the 10th amendment is applicable is on the LGBTQ laws where some states have allowed it while others have not but in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S.(2015), the supreme court legalized it terming it unconstitutional to deny members of the LGBTQ community a chance to marry (Feerick, 2013).
The 14th Amendment
The fourteenth amendment covers different rights under is different provisions key among them being the right to citizenship for individuals born naturalized within the United States (Black, 2019). In addition, the amendment requires that no state should deny individuals within the United States an equal protection of the law. Several landmark cases have given reference to the 14th Amendment such as Griswold v. Connecticut 1965 and the Loving v. Virginia 1967 on contraception and interracial marriages respectively (Black, 2019). As such, the fourth amendment serves to enhance or strengthen the position of other amendments.

Black, E. (2019). Politics and the Birth of the Bill of Rights. Our Constitution, 78–83. doi: 10.4324/9780429300806-14
Feerick, J. D. (2013). An Analysis of Sections 5, 6, 8, and 10 of the Amendment. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment, 108–121. doi: 10.5422/fordham/9780823252008.003.0008
Friedland, S. (2013). The Third Amendment, Privacy and Mass Surveillance. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2359470
Murray, H. (2018). The right to bear arms: the Second Amendment. New York, NY: Enslow Publishing.
Rainer, G. (2018). Bill of Rights (1689). Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law. doi: 10.1093/law-mpeccol/e635.013.635
Schulhofer, S. J. (2012). The Fourth Amendment Today. More Essential than Ever, 170–180. doi: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195392128.003.0008
Weaver, R. L., Hancock, C., & Knechtle, J. C. (2017). The First Amendment: cases, problems, and materials. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.


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