(Photo by Milos Luzanin Source: ThinkStock)
(Photo by Milos Luzanin Source: ThinkStock)

The first ten amendments to the US Constitution are labeled the “Bill of Rights.” Are they really rights — or just suggestions? The first amendment guarantees free speech but if you’re arrested take my advice and shut up until you can talk to your attorney. There are groups that feel we should have “freedom FROM religion” instead of “freedom OF religion.” Are you beginning to see the problem areas here?

Rights vs. Privileges

We don’t have the right to drive on America’s highways unless we conform to certain laws and restrictions. We have to pass a test, have a license and current insurance, and obey the traffic laws of the state we’re driving in. If we stray too far from those laws and restrictions there can be serious consequences.

I can’t yell, “FIRE” in a crowded theatre. I guess I could yell “FIRE” in and empty one without too many repercussions. So we are finding some more gray areas in our bill of rights.

That “free speech” comes with a few caveats tied to it. Pornography is legal while child pornography is not. Age is the deciding factor in that contradiction. Seventeen you’re a child molester and you go to jail; eighteen you’re home free. Amazing what a birthday can do.

You Have The Right To…

Anyone who watches any of the dozens of crime shows on TV knows what, “Read him his rights,” means. However, law enforcement and the courts operated for over 180 years before Ernesto Miranda got the idea that the Constitution guaranteed some rights no one noticed before. But, Ernesto’s court-appointed lawyer, Alvin Moore did notice and the rest is history.

It’s really amazing when you think about it. All the confessions of criminals over 180 years or more had no idea they had the right to remain silent, that they could have an attorney even if they could not afford one, and anything they said could be used against them.

Yet, a lowly court-appointed attorney, Alvin Moore, found those pesky rights hidden in plain sight in the fifth and sixth amendments of the US Constitution. But he had to go all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States to make them stick. How the founders must have cheered when old Alvin rose to his feet and said, “Point of order your honor.”

Following his release Ernesto Miranda was very popular among the police force and made a few bucks autographing “Miranda” cards for police officers. In 1976 Miranda was stabbed to death in a bar fight. No one was ever convicted of the crime. I guess they all learned from Ernesto and remained silent.

Some Final Thoughts

Rights, privileges, and freedoms all hinge on the idea that you can do pretty much anything you want until some “dufus” accuses you of violating their constitutional rights. And that’s when the fun starts.

Attorney’s, juries, judges, news crews, reporters, perhaps even a movie of the week. But our founders foresaw all those things, maybe not the news crews or movie of the week, but they knew that they had put just enough rights in those first ten amendments to protect you if needed. The only problem is finding them.

If you get in any real trouble I’d be on the phone to Alvin Moore. He seems like a pretty damn good lawyer.

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