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A legal action conferring citizenship on an alien.

Dual citizenship

Citizenship in more than one nation.

Right of expatriation

The right to renounce one's citizenship.

Property rights

The rights of an individual to own, use, rent, invest in, buy, and sell property.

Contract clause

Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 10) originally intended to prohibit state governments from modifying contracts made between individuals; for a while interpreted as prohibiting state governments from taking actions that adversely affect property rights; no longer interpreted so broadly and no longer constrains state governments from exercising their police powers.

Police powers

Inherent powers of state governments to pass laws to protect the public health, safety, and welfare; the national government has no directly granted police powers but accomplishes the same goals through other delegated powers.

Eminent domain

Power of a government to take private property for public use; the U.S. Constitution gives national and state governments this power and requires them to provide just compensation for property so taken.

Regulatory taking

Government regulation of property so extensive that government is deemed to have taken the property by the power of eminent domain, for which it must compensate the property owners.

Due process

Established rules and regulations that restrain government officials.

Procedural due process

Constitutional requirement that governments proceed by proper methods; limits how government may exercise power.

Substantive due process

Constitutional requirement that governments act reasonably and that the substance of the laws themselves be fair and reasonable; limits what the government may do.

Search warrant

A writ issued by a magistrate that authorizes the police to search a particular place or person, specifying the place to be searched and the objects to be seized.

Racial profiling

Police targeting of racial minorities as potential suspects of criminal activities.

Exclusionary rule

Requirement that evidence unconstitutionally or illegally obtained be excluded from a criminal trial.


Exemption from prosecution for a particular crime in return for testimony pertaining to the case.

Grand jury

A jury of 12 to 23 persons who, in private, hear evidence presented by the government to determine whether persons shall be required to stand trial. If the jury believes there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed, it issues an indictment.


A formal written statement from a grand jury charging an individual with an offense; also called a true bill.

Plea bargain

Agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant that the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser offense to avoid having to stand trial for more serious offense.

Petit jury

A jury of 6 to 12 persons that determines guilt or innocence in a civil or criminal action.

Double jeopardy

Trial or punishment for the same crime by the same government; forbidden by the Constitution.

Community policing

Assigning police to neighborhoods where they walk the beat and work with churches and other community groups to reduce crime and improve relations with minorities.

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