Welcome to the Liberal Conservative’s look at the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, better known as the Bill of Rights, part 5 of 10! It should be rather obvious by now that that means we will be looking at the 5th Amendment today. Here…we…go!
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor 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; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
We’ve already talked about the nefarious ways in which the United States Government has been stomping all over some pretty major parts of the Bill of Rights recently courtesy of the Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act. Nothing like a little legal trickery to create a dominion over the American lower class. For those of you who missed it, the U.S. can now detain American citizens indefinitely and without the right to due process so long as the President says, “I think he/she is a terrorist.”
At any rate let’s see what the Founders were saying with this piece of legislation. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital…unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…”
Translation: no one can be locked up for no reason, because that’s- Oh, darn it! Here we go again… Right off the bat the first words to the 5th Amendment are rendered meaningless courtesy of George W. Bush and Barack Obama (and the Congresses that helped pass the laws). Thanks to those men and women the government absolutely can lock you up for no reason. This also effects the text immediately afterward: “…except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger..”
War. People die during war. In fact, up to quite a few people can die during war. The 5th Amendment made special mention of this fact seeing as some foolish souls may be open to the idea of prosecuting soldiers who’ve taken enemy lives during combat. Not many, and none that I know of; but some may entertain the thought. Especially if they don’t agree with the very concept of war. Thankfully, we can be sure those types will stick to the shadows forever and ever. However, the idea that soldiers can be locked up for no significant reason is a little off-putting. We can also be certain that – yes – sometimes there are legitimate reasons to arrest soldiers for their wartime actions. Most of the time, though, they’re just doing what soldiers do: killing other countries’ soldiers. That’s kind of what war is about, after all.
So, now that the first third of the 5th Amendment has been adequately demolished by post-9/11 government we can move on: “…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor 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…”
Double jeopardy. Testifying against one’s self. Due Process.
We don’t usually do this here, but let’s play a round of “Conspiracy Theorist’s Corner”. Say a criminal faces capital charges. He’s acquitted after his trial. Prosecutor doesn’t like that so he forges some documentation or outright lies and claims the formerly accused man has links to terrorism based on his alleged killing methods/victim. Federal Government steps in and detains the man NDAA-style. There goes double jeopardy.
Okay, as farfetched as that may be, what’s to stop the government from throwing double jeopardy out the window for the sake of jailing a man that they believe got away with a crime? People are people, after all; and people are often terrible people who do terrible things like hold grudges and refuse to admit that they lost.
When it comes to testifying against one’s self you can wave that right goodbye. It simply doesn’t apply under NDAA regulations. We’ve said it several times now and we’ll say it again: you can be locked up for no reason, with no grand jury, with no trial or due process of any kind. What use would refusing the incriminate yourself be in that scenario? And get the image of some gangster sitting on the witness stand with a grin on his face shaking his head condescendingly at the prosecuting attorney out of your head. “Pleading the fifth” simply means you cannot be coerced into testifying as a witness against yourself during trial. It isn’t a get out of jail free card.
Do we even have to go over due process? Fine, once more: you can be locked up for no reason, with no grand jury, with no trial or due process of any kind. Adios, due process…
So, How Does This Amendment Apply To Modern America?
Beginning with yesterday’s 4th Amendment entry and ending with tomorrow’s 6th Amendment entry we find ourselves dead center in a trilogy of privileges given to us by the Founders of the United States that are being completely disregarded by modern America. The 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments no longer apply to the American people under the watchful eye of the National Defense Authorization and Patriot Acts.
Edited/Published by: SB