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The Bill of Rights: The First Ten Amendments

 

First Amendment

This amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and protects the right of assembly.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

 
 

Second Amendment

This amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

 
 

Third Amendment

This amendment guards against the forced quartering of troops. (In the years before the American Revolution, British officials forced the colonists to quarter—to house and feed—British troops.)

No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

 
 

Fourth Amendment

This amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

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.

 
 

Fifth Amendment

This amendment guarantees a trial by jury and “due process of law,” and guards against double jeopardy (being charged twice for the same offense) and self-incrimination.

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 in 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 be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

 
 

Sixth Amendment

This amendment outlines the rights of the accused, including the right to have a "speedy and public" trial, the right to be informed of the charges made against him, the right to call witnesses in his defense, and the right to have an attorney in his defense.

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 defense.

 
 

Seventh Amendment

This amendment lays out the rules of common law.

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

 
 

Eighth Amendment

This amendment protects against “cruel and unusual punishments.”

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

 
 

Ninth Amendment

This amendment ensures that the individual rights that are not enumerated in the Constitution are secure—that is, that these rights should not be automatically infringed upon because they are omitted from the Constitution.

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

 
 

Tenth Amendment

This amendment limits the power of federal government by reserving for the states all powers that are not explicitly granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor denied to the states. This amendment counterbalances Article VI, which invests the federal government with ultimate legislative authority.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.