Civil liberties are the cornerstone of U.S. society. They are detailed in the famous Bill of Rights, which is a collection of the Ten Amendments to the American Constitution added in 1791. You probably know them as the various “freedoms,” such as the freedom of speech, religious freedom, etc. These freedoms are an essential part of the American identity, and we’re proud of them for a reason.
Liberties vs. Rights
Civil rights and liberties are not exactly the same thing. They are both essential for the protection of basic human rights, but there’s a key difference between them. In essence, civil liberties are individual rights under the Constitution to be protected from the government.
On the other hand, civil rights can be seen as protection by the government. They indicate the right of groups of people to be treated equally by the government.
So liberties are phrased in a negative way, i.e., they describe what the government mustn’t do to infringe individual rights. In contrast, rights refer to the positive actions by the government to create conditions of equality for everyone, especially protecting the rights of minorities.
Civil Liberties Described in the Bill of Rights
It’s interesting that all liberties detailed in the Ten Amendments fall into two categories:
- General freedoms detailed in the First Amendment
- Rights and liberties associated with crime and criminal processes
Here’s a brief overview of the Ten Amendments:
- First Amendment — Freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition
- Second Amendment — The right to keep and bear arms
- Third Amendment — The right not to house soldiers in times of peace and war
- Fourth Amendment — The right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures
- Fifth Amendment — The “right to remain silent,” i.e., you can’t be compelled by the government to provide incriminating information about yourself
- Sixth Amendment — The right to a trial without delay and the right to legal counsel
- Seventh Amendment — The right to a jury trial
- Eighth Amendment — The right to reasonable bail and punishment
- Ninth Amendment — People retain their rights even when not enumerated in the Constitution
- Tenth Amendment — The rights not guaranteed by the Constitution are within the states’ power
The 14th Amendment
While all of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights address the protection of liberties from the federal government, the 14th Amendment protects them against the state governments as well. This amendment was added later, in 1868, to guarantee protection at the state level too.
Have Your Civil Liberties Been Violated? DER Can Help
If you feel your civil rights and liberties have been violated, you can contact us anytime for help. Our phone lines are open 24/7, and we will always answer your call. Here at Davis, Ermis, & Roberts, we are a team of legal professionals with 35 years of experience.
We operate in North Texas and provide high-quality service at an affordable price. If you think we can help (we’re confident that we can), call us — the first consultation is free!