Timelines connect to each of the articles and amendments in the Constitution as well as to topics, such as health care, energy and the environment, and women’s rights. Also available is an interactive in which judges explain the parts of the Sixth Amendment.
Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution says that the House of Representatives brings charges of impeachment to remove a president, vice president or other civil officer, such as a judge. The Senate conducts the trial and decides whether person is to be removed from office.
The First Amendment’s free exercise clause allows a person to hold whatever religious beliefs he or she wants, and to exercise that belief by attending religious services, praying in public or in private, proselytizing or wearing religious clothing, such as yarmulkes or headscarves. Also included in the free exercise clause is the right not to believe in any religion, and the right not to participate in religious activities. Second, the establishment clause prevents the government from creating a church, endorsing religion in general, or favoring one set of religious beliefs over another.
The First Amendment allows citizens to express and to be exposed to a wide range of opinions and views. It was intended to ensure a free exchange of ideas even if the ideas are unpopular. Freedom of speech encompasses not only the spoken and written word, but also all kinds of expression (including non-verbal communications, such as sit-ins, art, photographs, films and advertisements).
The Fourth Amendment protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures by government officials. A search can mean everything from a frisking by a police officer to a blood test to a search of an individual’s home or car. A seizure occurs when the government takes control of an individual or something in his or her possession.
The Fifth Amendment addresses the right to a grand jury for serious federal criminal charges, protection against double jeopardy, the right against self-incrimination, the right to due process, and the takings clause.
The right of due process has grown in two directions: It affords individuals a right to a fair process (known as procedural due process) and a right to enjoy certain fundamental liberties without governmental interference (known as substantive due process). The Fifth Amendment’s due process clause applies to the federal government’s conduct. In 1868 the adoption of the 14th Amendment expanded the right of due process to include limits on the actions of state governments.
The Sixth Amendment provides rights and protections to people accused of crimes. These include the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; the right to be informed of the charges; the right to confront adverse witnesses, and the right to counsel.
The Sixth Amendment provides many protections and rights to a person accused of a crime. One right is to have his or her case heard by an impartial jury—independent people from the surrounding community who are willing to decide the case based only on the evidence.
Without this right, criminal defendants could be held indefinitely under a cloud of unproven criminal accusations. The right to a speedy trial also is crucial to ensuring that a criminal defendant receives a fair trial. If too much time elapses between the alleged crime and the trial, witnesses may die or leave the area, their memories may fade, and physical evidence may be lost.
The Sixth Amendment right to “be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation” is another protection meant to ensure that the accused receives a fair trail. A speedy, public trial that is heard by an impartial jury is meaningless if a defendant is left in the dark about exactly the crime with which he or she is charged.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to have an attorney defend him or her at trial. That right is not dependent on the defendant’s ability to pay an attorney; if a defendant cannot afford a lawyer, the government is required to provide one. The right to counsel is more than just the right to have an attorney physically present at criminal proceedings. The assistance provided by the attorney must be effective.
The Seventh Amendment extends the right to a jury trial to federal civil cases such as car accidents, disputes between corporations for breach of contract, or most discrimination or employment disputes.