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Civil Liberties

The legal constitutional protections against the government; defined in the Bill of Rights.

Bill of Rights

First 10 amendments to the Constitution.

First Amendment

Establishes the 4 great liberties: freedom of the press, of speech, of religion, and of assembly.

Fourteenth Amendment

"No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Due Process Clause

Part of the 14th amendment that guarantees that people cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process.

Incorporation Doctrine

The legal concept under which the Supreme Court has nationalized the Bill of Rights by making most of its provisions applicable to the states through the 14th amendment.

Establishment Clause

Part of the 1st amendment that states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Free Exercise Clause

A 1st amendment provision that prohibits government from interfering with the practice of religion.

Prior Restraint

A government and its actions preventing material from being published. Censorship.

Shield Laws

Laws created to protect news reporters from being forced to testify in courts or disclose confidential information.


The publication of false or malicious statements that damage someone's reputation.


The verbal expression of false or malicious statements that damage someone's reputation.

Symbolic Speech

Nonverbal communication, such as burning a flag or wearing an armband.

Commercial Speech

Communication in the form of advertising.

Federal Communications Commission

Regulates the content, nature, and existence of radio and television broadcasting.

Probable Cause

The situation occurring when police have reason to believe that a person should be arrested. In making the arrest, police are legally allowed to search for and seize incriminating evidence.

Unreasonable Search and Seizures

Obtaining evidence in a haphazard or random manner, a practice prohibited by the 14th amendment. Probable cause and/or a search warrant are required for a legal and proper search for and seizure of incriminating evidence.

Search Warrant

A written authorization from a court specifying the area to be searched and what the police are searching for.

Exclusionary Rule

The rule that evidence, no matter how incriminating, cannot be introduced into a trial if it was not constitutionally obtained.

Fifth Amendment

An amendment designed to protect the rights of persons accused of crimes, including protection from double jeopardy, self-incrimination, and punishment without due process of law.


The situation occurring when an individual accused of a crime is compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in court.

Sixth Amendment

An amendment designed to protect individuals accused of crimes. It includes the right to counsel, the right to confront witnesses, and the right to a speedy and public trial.

Plea Bargaining

A bargain struck between the defendant's lawyer and the prosecutor to the effect that the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser crime (or fewer crimes) in exchange for the state's promise not to prosecute the defendant for a more serious (or additional) crime.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Court sentences prohibited by the 8th amendment.

Right to Privacy

The right to a personal life free from the intrusion of the government.

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