The Bill of Rights and Civil Liberties

How are your rights defined and protected under the Constitution?


The first ten amendments were added to the Constitution to safeguard civil liberties and civil rights. However, it took many years for the Supreme Court to apply the Bill of Rights to the actions of state and local governments.

The role of the judiciary The Bill of Rights defines rights and liberties in broad, abstract terms. The judicial branch interprets the first ten amendments and applies them to actual circumstances.

Protecting basic civil liberties The First Amendment protects the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, and assembly. It also guarantees the right to petition the government.

Preventing abuses of power The Second, Third, and Fourth amendments are designed to protect the rights of citizens from government abuses of power.

Safeguards under the legal system The Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth amendments define and protect rights under the judicial system.

Powers of the states and the people The Ninth Amendment protects other, unnamed rights not specified in the Bill of Rights. The Tenth Amendment reserves powers not granted to the federal government to the states or the people.