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​​How the Court Affects You

The United States Constitution sets forth the laws that establish our structure of government. The first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, define and protect our personal liberties as we go about our daily life.
 
What does this mean for you?
 

May Your Principal Search Your Locker?


The Fourth Amendment prevents government from conducting any unreasonable search of something that a person reasonably expects would be private. While the locker belongs to the school, the U.S. Supreme Court has not decided whether a student can reasonably expect the locker to stay private.
 
But even if a student does have that expectation of privacy, the law says the school can search the locker IF there is reasonable ground for believing that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated a law or a school rule. The search, however, must be conducted in a reasonable manner.
 
Can you think of other legal circumstances where an individual's private belongings might be searched?
 

What If You Are Driving And Get A Ticket?

Every day, police issue thousands of traffic tickets, also called citations. Officers issue tickets to drivers who do not follow the traffic rules. These drivers, when stopped, are asked to sign the ticket thereby saying they understand why they have received it.  
In some cases these drivers only pay a fine. In others, they may have to appear in court. Drivers who disagree with the ticket may also request a date to go to court, with or without attorneys, to present reasons why they should NOT get a ticket. It's your right to have a fair and public hearing and defend yourself if you are accused of a wrong.
 

Don't Like That Law?

 
For more than 200 years, Americans have enjoyed the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Great changes in American society have occurred due to the free speech that is practiced every day in this country. This often times takes place through the media. Have you read the editorial page of your local newspaper? Have you heard people call in to local radio shows and share their opinion on an issue? This exchange of ideas is a testimonial to the uncommon freedom of speech that Americans are privileged to have.
 
Read on to learn how one woman who disagreed made a difference.

Eva Belles Fight For Change

In 1888, solely because she was a woman, Eva Belles was denied the right to vote in a school election—that was the law. (Did you know that the first Michigan Constitution in 1835 allowed only white men over 21 to vote?) Ms. Belles hired an attorney and fought that law all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court.
 
The law, created by the Michigan State Legislature, said that "every person" meeting age, property and parenthood requirements could vote in school elections. Ms. Belles' attorney argued that she was a person and that the "every person" language in the statute included women. The court agreed.
 
This case won the right for women to vote in Michigan school elections thirty years ahead of the1920 suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowing women to vote in all elections.
 

Due Process under the Law

 
As you can see, the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights has guided the determination of the rights and freedoms for you and all U.S. citizens.
 
Another freedom under the Bill of Rights, Due Process, guarantees that our government provide justice for all its citizens. Due process includes the right to a fair and public hearing by the court if you feel you have been wronged OR are accused of breaking the law.

Bill of Rights

Amendments I to X inclusive, popularly known as the Bill of Rights, were proposed and sent to the states by the first session of the First Congress. They were ratified Dec. 15, 1791.)

Amendment I

Freedom of religion, speech, of the press, and right of petition.

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.

Amendment II

Right of people to bear arms not to be infringed.

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.

Amendment III

Quartering of 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.

Amendment IV

Persons and houses to be secure from 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.

Amendment V

Trials for crimes; just compensation for private property taken for public use.

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 offence 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.

Amendment VI

Civil rights in trials for crimes enumerated.

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.

Amendment VII

Civil rights in civil suits.

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 re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail, fines, and punishments prohibited.

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

Amendment IX

Reserved rights of people.

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

Amendment X

Powers not delegated, reserved to states and people respectively.

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.

-------------- "Amendments to the Constitution of the United States" Fact Monster. © 2003 Family Education Network.

30 Jan. 2004 .