What is the layman's explanation for the 27 Amendments?
The First Amendment protects various freedoms of expression including: Religion: The freedom of religion is protected through the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. The establishment clause dictates that the Federal Government cannot have an official religion. The free exercise clause dictates that the Federal Government cannot prohibit the practice of any religion or interfere with it in any way. The exception to the rule here is that the government can interfere if the religion deprives someone of life, liberty, or property. Speech: Freedom of speech is protected, however it is generally accepted that cases of Slander (spreading false information about another through speech) and hate speech are not protected. Press: Freedom of the press is also guaranteed, however cases of libel, and matters of national security are generally not protected. Assembly: The right to peaceably assemble is protected with almost no exception. However the key is peaceable assembly, acts of violence and disruption are not protected under the first amendment. Petition: The people have the right to petition the Federal Government for anything. There is virtually no exception to this. Amendment II 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.
The interpretation of this amendment is a matter of dispute. Some argue that the right to bear arms is for all citizens while others argue that it is more concerned with the formation of state militias. There is also argument, particularly from gun advocates that the federal government can in no way limit the kind of weapons possessed by private citizens without due process. The Supreme Court has leaned more toward the gun rights of private citizens in recent years. Amendment III
Citizens are not required to quarter troops on their private property.
Amendment IV People have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. Government officials (aka Police Officers) are required to obtain a warrant and have probable cause before searching or se. This has also been interpreted as an inherent right to privacy, but this is a subject of some dispute.
The fifth amendment deals with rights of the accused.
Grand Jury: Any person charged with a felony is has to be indicted by a Grand Jury before being tried for the crime, except for persons in the military for crimes committed while on active duty. Double Jeopardy: After acquittal no person can be tried again for the same crime.
Self Incrimination: No person is required to be a witness against themselves. Also known as the right to remain silent. Colloquially referred to as "Pleading the Fifth." Due Process Clause: No person can be denied life, liberty, or property without a trial.
Jury Trial: All persons charged with a crime in the United States have the right to a trial by jury. Right to Confront: Any person charged with a crime has the right to confront witnesses and give cross examination. Right to Counsel: Any person charged with a crime has the right to receive legal counsel. It is now given that persons who cannot afford counsel are provided counsel free of charge.
Amendment VII Persons involved in a civil law suit involving more than twenty dollars have the right to have the case decided by jury.
The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. It is a matter of dispute as to what cruel and unusual punishment actually is e.g. the death penalty.
The rights stated in the Constitution does not mean that rights not stated are not given to the people. It implies that the rights given by the Constitution are not all inclusive.
The powers and freedoms not enumerated in the Constitution are given to the states or to the people.
Citizens cannot sue another state other than their home state in federal court, nor can someone from another country sue any state in federal court.
This amendment outlines the electoral college system as we understand it today. Before the ratification of the twelfth amendment, each Elector (not voter) cast two votes for President, the winner in the electoral college became president and the runner up became Vice President. With the passage of the Twelfth Amendment each elector cast one vote for President and one for Vice President.
Amendment XIII A reconstruction amendment. Abolishes involuntary servitude (slavery) in the United States. No person shall be forced into involuntary servitude unless convicted of a crime and duly sentenced. Congress is given authority to enforce this amendment by legislation.
Amendment XIV Another reconstruction amendment. Divided into five sections. Section I: Redefines citizenship as any person born or naturalized in the United States. Also no citizen shall be denied the rights and privileges given by the United States without due process.
Section II: Reverses the 3/5 compromise and requires that all persons within the United States are counted as one person for the purpose of determining representation.
Section III: Forbids any person having participated in an act of rebellion from holding public office but Congress can remove such a limitation by two thirds vote in both houses.
Section IV: The United States shall not be responsible for debts incurred by Confederate states during rebellion. Section V: Gives Congress the power to enforce this amendment by legislation.
Forbids the Government from depriving the right to vote based on race.
Allows the federal government to levy an income tax.
Provides for direct election of Senators.
This amendment prohibited sale, purchase, or consumption of "Intoxicating Spirits."
Prohibits withholding the right to vote based on gender.
This amendment changes inauguration day for the President and Vice President to January 20th and changes inauguration day for Senators and Congressman to January 3rd.
Repeals the Eighteenth amendment.
Imposes a two term limit on Presidents.
Gives DC electors in the Electoral College.
Prohibits the use of poll taxes.
Outlines the procedures for presidential succession. Vice President is next in line: Up until the 25th amendment the Constitution was not explicit in whether or not the Vice President become President or Acting President upon the death or resignation of the President. John Tyler set the precident in 1841 with the death of William Henry Harrison that the Vice President becomes president until the end of the term, the 25th amendment set this in stone.
Vacancy in Vice Presidency: The President can nominate a Vice President to fill a vacancy with a majority confirmation in both houses of Congress. Up until this point, whenever there was a vacancy in the Vice Presidency, the office was left vacant until the next election. Voluntary temporary vacancy: The President can temporarily relinquish his power to the Vice President (or the next in the line of succession) by writing the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate. He writes them again to resume his duties and take back power. Involuntary temporary removal: The President can be involuntarily removed from power if the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet inform the Speaker and the President pro tempore of the Senate in writing that the President is not capable of discharging his duties. The President can then inform the Congress in writing that he is capable of discharging his duties and resume. If within four days the Vice President and the cabinet again inform Congress that he is not capable then Congress must assemble within 48 hours, if not already in session, and must decide the issue within 21 days.
Guarantees citizens age 18 or older the right to vote.
Stipulates that changes made in Congressional Salaries do not take effect until the next Congress convenes.