Civil Liberties Concepts

The ACLU defends people whose constitutional rights have been violated by the government; this could include a local police department, a state agency, or a public school, for instance.

Please note that the ACLU takes less than 30 cases per year; we take only “test” cases that will affect a broad segment of the population and impact interpretation of the law in years to come.

Below is a summary of the important rights detailed in selected amendments to the United States Constitution; the ACLU uses this list when deciding whether to take a case.

First Amendment – No government establishment of religion, free exercise of religion; freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition, freedom to access information about the government.

Fourth Amendment – Restrictions on government searches and seizures of persons, houses, papers, and effects.

Fifth Amendment – Protection from double jeopardy, self-incrimination, deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Protection against taking of private property for public use without due compensation.

Sixth Amendment – Right of accused to speedy and public trial, impartial jury, notice of charges, confrontation of witnesses, compulsory process to obtain defense witnesses, assistance of counsel.

Eighth Amendment – Protection of accused from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishment.

Ninth Amendment – Provision for non-enumerated rights of the Constitution, particularly the right to privacy.

Thirteenth Amendment – No slavery or involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime.

Fourteenth Amendment –  Protection against state enforcement of laws in violation of privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States. Protection against deprivations of life, liberty, or property without due process. Protection against denial of equal protection of the law.

Fifteenth Amendment – Right to vote guaranteed against discrimination based upon race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Nineteenth Amendment – Abridgment of right to vote on account of sex.

Twenty-fourth Amendment – Abridgment of right to vote based on non-payment of poll or other taxes.