How can the American legal system, which is so devoted to protecting individual rights, justify itself morally if it jeopardizes, through its own rules, the right of law-abiding citizens to...

How can the American legal system, which is so devoted to protecting individual rights,

justify itself morally if it jeopardizes, through its own rules, the right of law-abiding citizens to personal peace and security?

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that I would have to side with the anti- Federalists on this point.  At the Constitutional Convention, a fundamental schism emerged.  At one such end was the Federalist camp, a group of individuals that were convinced that lawlessness and disorder would threaten the entire endeavor of the new nation.  Opposing them were the Anti- Federalists.  These individuals were vitally concerned with exchanging one form of tyranny (King George and England) with another (a situation whereby individuals would use law and order to sacrifice individual rights.)  The compromise reached was the Bill of Rights, and the protection of individual liberties regardless of context and situation.  The notion of individual rights is an element that cannot exist when selectively enforced.  This would mean that a political order's commitment to rights can only be measured when all citizens are able to benefit from them.  The Rights of the Accused (Amendments 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) are critical in this endeavor.  There might be frustration that results from the idea that criminals have rights, but it seems to me that the fundamental debate at the Convention rings true in this sense.  If the worst of our society have their rights sacrificed, it will be only a matter of time when the best have theirs treated in the same manner.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I assume that you are saying that rules that limit what the police can do to catch a suspect, for example, jeopardize the right of the rest of us to be safe.

When the police are forced to abide by rules and such, you can say that our security is jeopardized.  However, if they were not forced to abide by rules, our liberty would be jeopardized just as badly if not worse.

In other words, if there weren't limits on what the police could do, we would be more or less at their mercy.  They could pretty much do whatever they wanted to pin any crime on any person.

So, if we didn't have the protections of the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments, the police would be more of a danger to our rights than crimninals are now.

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