Today is Constitution Day, in which we celebrate the foundational document that grants Americans their bedrock rights. Laws, regulations, and executive orders come and go, but the Constitution remains. In more than 200 years, it has only been amended 27 times.
Arguments abound over which individual right is our “most important,” but the truth is that every right spelled out in the Constitution carries equal weight. The date it came into force does not matter.
So, what’s your favorite constitutional right?
Most everyone prizes their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petitioning of our government.
For a large portion of the country, the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, whether it’s for hunting, sport, or self-defense is the most sacred. Many other people would like to see that right done away with, but that would require an additional amendment to the Constitution.
Or perhaps you’d consider the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote as your favorite. Its effects have certainly been far-reaching over the last 100 years.
Rights for People Facing Criminal Charges or Investigation
If you’ve ever found yourself facing arrest or a criminal investigation, it is essential that you are aware of several rights the Constitution grants you.
For instance, the Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. It allows you to ask the police, “Do you have a warrant?”
The Sixth Amendment gives you the right to an attorney, even when you can’t afford one. Access to a criminal defense attorney can often make the difference in whether you spend years behind bars for a conviction.
And of course, the Eighth Amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment. Our views of what is “cruel and unusual” have changed over the years, but progress has generally been steady.
Freedom From Discrimination
For many people of color, for whom some of the uglier parts of our country’s past are still too close in the rearview mirror, the 14th Amendments guarantee of equal protection under the law provides the foundation for many anti-discrimination laws and court rulings.
Additionally, 15th Amendment right to vote for people of all races and the 24th Amendment’s prohibition on poll taxes are important extensions of the 14th Amendment.
If you are unfamiliar with the Constitution and the rights it provides you, today is a good time to start learning more. Knowledge of your constitutional rights may come to your rescue someday.
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