Civics Vocabulary

    2.4 Rights in the U.S. Constitution

    Bill of Rights

    the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, establishing rights and protections for American citizens

    cruel and unusual punishment

    punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; includes torture or other forms of punishment too severe for the crime committed

    double jeopardy

    the prosecution of a defendant for a criminal offense for which he has already been tried; prohibited in the Fifth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution

    due process of law

    a system of justice according to established rules and principles; based on the principle in the Fifth Amendment that a person cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without appropriate legal procedures and protections

    eminent domain

    the right of the government to take private property for public use; the Fifth Amendment requires that fair compensation be made when property is taken under eminent domain

    equal protection under the law

    a guarantee under the 14th Amendment that a state must treat a citizen  or class of citizens the same as it treats other citizens  or classes in like circumstances

    First Amendment

    an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting Congress from establishing a religion, and from interfering with freedom of religious exercise, press, speech, assembly, or petition

    pleading the fifth

    the act of a person refusing to testify under oath in a court of law on the grounds that the answers could be used as evidence against him to convict him of a criminal offense

    right to bear arms

    the idea in the Second Amendment that people have an individual right to own and carry weapons

    right to legal counsel

    the right of a defendant to be assisted by an attorney, and if he cannot afford his own lawyer, the government must appoint one for him; established in the Sixth Amendment

    search and seizure

    the process by which police or other authorities who suspect that a crime has been committed do a search of a person's property and collect any relevant evidence to the crime; protection from illegal search and seizure is in the Fourth Amendment


    the right to vote; protected in the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th Amendments

    trial by jury

    a trial in which the issue is determined by a judge and a jury, usually with 12 members, whose job is to determine facts and make a judgment of guilty or not guilty; protected in the Sixth Amendment

    unenumerated rights

    according to the Ninth Amendment, any right that is not specifically addressed in the Constitution still may be protected (e.g., privacy)