Do you know your rights? Do you know when you have firm footing to take and make a stand? Do you know when discretion is the better part of valor? Do you know when you need to fall in line?

 

Do you know when you have the right to refuse to allow a search of your vehicle? When you have the right to speak? Or not to speak? When you are exercising civil disobedience - or creating a hot bed for yourself?

 

Do you know the limits on your freedom of speech? (Yes, Virginia, there are limits.) Do you know the limits on your ability to carry a firearm, open carry or otherwise?  (Yes, Harry, despite the existence of the Second Amendment, there...

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AMENDMENT VIII: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

 

Many focus on the "cruel and unusual punishments" aspect of this amendment, but no less important is the provision related to bail. Bail is money or property posted as security to obtain release from incarceration and to ensure appearance at hearings. If you don't show up, you can lose the money or the property you've posted. Federal and state laws set the conditions pursuant to which bail is granted.

 

While you're innocent until proven guilty by the State - the presumption of innocence - the State must also bala...

It's human nature: we don't like to look at unpleasant things.  Correction: we don't like to look at our own unpleasant things - but we'll watch a Jerry Springer marathon or break our necks looking at someone else's car accident.  There is a valuable lesson to be had in both, however.

 

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

 

Other's misfortunes can be instructive. Plenty can go wrong if you wait to address what happens to your estate if you don't plan. A family heirloom may not descend to a person to whom it should be given. You may not provide appropriately for a spouse or for your children, having re-married, or having spent an exceptional su...

Few people think, "Hey, I want to write my will today!" It's the ugly duckling of things you should have in order. I'd wager that estate planning ranks a long third after investing and insurance. No offense, CFPs or insurance salespersons, but we don't like saving money and we don't like betting against ourselves.  I'm most confident we don't like the idea of dying.

 

There's a lot on the line, however, if you don't get your ducks in a row.  Intestacy statutes (i.e., laws that govern the distribution of your estate if you don't have a will) and out-of-date documents can cause some serious problems after you pass away (think: litigatio...

February 28, 2016

AMENDMENT VI: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed . . ." [1791]

 

What does it mean to have a speedy trial? Why public? What does it mean to be "impartial" as a jury? Are people of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed "a jury of peers"?

 

The "speed" of a trial is determined by statute, and where a defendant requires more time for whatever reason, time can be waived. The waiver has its limits, though. Other considerations are weighed by the Court in the interests o...

February 27, 2016

AMENDMENT V: "No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law . . ." [1791]

These are interesting times for speech.  On the one hand, we're nearly completely unbridled.  Where we used to have to go to the Public Square and stand on a soap box to be heard, now the public square is right here, right now, via blogging, twitter, Face Book, and forums such as this one.  As the saying goes, opinions are like . . . Well, let's just say everyone has one.  And to that point, it takes a gentle person to suffer ignorance and smile....

February 23, 2016

AMENDMENT IV: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." [1791]

 

Justice Louis Brandeis stated that the Fourth Amendment sets forth "the right to be left alone - the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men."  James Otis, a lawyer in colonial Massachusetts and an early patriot, opined, "A man's house is his castle; whilst he is quiet, h...

February 22, 2016

Do you have a will?  A power of attorney?  A durable medical power of attorney?  A living will?  These are all good things to have, like insurance, because if you don't have them when you need them, it may be too late.

 

A will provides for how you want your property to be divided once you pass away. It also contemplates the nomination of a trustee in the event a gift goes to someone who is a minor or incompetent by law. It can include provisions with respect to appointing a guardian for any minor child you have in the event the other natural parent does not survive you. And in includes terms with respect to nomination of your executor - t...

February 22, 2016

AMENDMENT III: (1791) "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

It may seem irrelevant now, but the Third Amendment was significant to citizens during the infancy of our Republic. The authors of the Bill of Rights were freshly offended by the long-suffered indignities imposed by an overseas tyrant. 

 

With no disrespect to our modern soldiers, consider - as a private citizen today - how you would feel if the government ordered you to house troops? American colonists were much angered at having unwanted guests for wh...

February 17, 2016

AMENDMENT II (1791): A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

 

Do you, as an individual, have the right to own a firearm?  Or is it, as some argue, a collective and not an individual right?  Is it reserved for a "Militia" to protect you by proxy? Or can you be secure in your own person and home with an instrumentality that gives you the ability to defend yourself according to law - when those who violate the law would use a firearm to perpetrate an offense against you?   

 

Great debates are stirre...

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