Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
What is Constitutional Law?
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Constitutional law generally refers to federal law as set forth in the Constitution of the United States and related amendments and legislation. When issues arise regarding the interpretation of or need for certain laws addressed in the Constitution, the Supreme Court is responsible for arbitrating and coming to a reasonable decision. Due to the old and often vague language of much of the Constitution, there are often arguments regarding how one or more sections of the law should be applied, and these interpretations could have significant and widespread implications for other legislation currently in effect.
The majority of issues in Constitutional Law involve the Bill of Rights, a document containing the first ten amendments to the Constitution itself. While states may choose to apply additional rights within their own state constitutions, these cannot diminish the rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution. If you suspect your Constitutional rights have been violated or if you have questions regarding Constitutional law, contact a Constitutional law attorney to learn more.
Bill of Rights
Due to the significance of the Bill of Rights in issues of Constitutional law, it’s a good idea to take a few moments to research and understand these amendments and how they affect the everyday lives of U.S. citizens. This bill consists of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and it was designed to protect the fundamental rights and liberties of the people of the United States.
Let’s go over the basics of the 10 amendments which make up the Bill of Rights:
- First Amendment: This amendment is designed to protect free speech, the right of citizens to gather or assemble for protests or alternate reasons, and to prohibit the government from creating or favoring a single religion.
- Second Amendment: This amendment is designed to protect the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms.
- Third Amendment: This amendment prevents the government from taking over citizens’ private residences to house soldiers.
- Fourth Amendment: This amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizure of their being or property.
- Fifth Amendment: This amendment is designed primarily to protect individuals who have been accused of a crime from a miscarriage of justice by requiring a grand jury for serious criminal charges, prohibiting someone from being tried twice for the same offense, as well as the right to not incriminate themselves or be imprisoned without due process of law.
- Sixth Amendment: This amendment discusses similar issues to the above amendment, such as the right of someone accused of a crime to a quick and public trial by an impartial jury.
- Seventh Amendment: This amendment ensures the right to a trial by jury in civil cases on the Federal level.
- Eighth Amendment: This amendment prohibits excessive bail amounts, excessive fines, and cruel or unusual punishments.
- Ninth Amendment: This amendment essentially protects all other rights which should be applicable even if they were not expressly listed in the Constitution.
- Tenth Amendment: This amendment lays out the rights of the Federal Government, detailing that the only rights the Federal Government has are listed in the Constitution, and all other powers belong to the states and citizens.
Areas of Constitutional Law
Constitutional law is an extremely broad field, dealing with just about every law on a Federal level. However, it may also refer to the way the country is designed to run based on the Constitution itself. Some other significant areas where Constitutional law applies include the following:
- Checks and Balances: This refers to the design of the U.S. government; the separation of the branches is intended to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. Under the system of checks and balances, each branch must rely upon cooperation with the others to perform their duties.
- Separation of Powers: This refers to the intention of the founders of this country to avoid corruption by separating the workings of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches, preventing one branch from gaining too much power.
- Equal Protection: This is a common topic that makes its way into Federal cases; this concept requires that people in similar situations must be treated the same way, regardless of individual characteristics.
- Due Process: This refers to every person’s right to due process of law, which simply refers to every person’s right to a fair and unbiased trial before punishment for an alleged crime.
- Freedom of Speech: This is a common issue discussed in Federal and state courts, the definition and implementation of which are frequently under discussion.
- Freedom of Religion: This is a common issue discussed in Federal court, especially in regard to freedom of religion in public education systems. Freedom of religion is a civil liberty, the boundaries of which are constantly changing and developing.
- Judicial Review: This refers to the right of the courts to review new proposed legislation before deciding whether it should go into effect or not. This job is performed on a federal level by the Supreme Court.
- Assistance of Counsel: This refers to every person’s right to an attorney if they have been accused of a crime. This means that even if a defendant cannot afford an attorney on their own, they will be assigned one.
To learn more about Constitutional law and/or to discover how it applies to your current situation, seek legal counsel from a Constitutional law attorney.