The United States Constitution has several articles and amendments that establish constitutional rights.
The provisions providing for rights under the Bill of Rights were originally binding upon only the federal government. In time, most of these provisions became binding upon the states through selective incorporation into the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. When a provision is made binding on a state, a state can no longer restrict the rights guaranteed in that provision.
Examples of provisions made binding upon the states are the 6th Amendment's guarantee of a right to confrontation of witnesses, known as the Confrontation Clause, and the various provisions of the 1st Article, guaranteeing the freedoms of speech, the press, government and assembly.
For example, the Fifth Article protects the right to grand jury proceedings in federal criminal cases. However, because this right was not selectively incorporated into the due process clause of the 14th amendment, it is not binding upon the states. Therefore, persons involved in state criminal proceedings as a defendant have no federal constitutional right to grand jury proceedings. Whether an individual has a right to a grand jury becomes a question of state law.
Each of the United States has its own governing constitution. State constitutions cannot reduce legal protections afforded by the federal charter, but they can provide additional protections. California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992, 1014, 103 S.Ct. 3446, 77 l.Ed.2d 1171 (1983). Even where the text of a state constitution matches verbatim that of the federal constitution, the state document may be held to provide more to the citizen. State constitutional rights can also include those entirely unaddressed in the federal constitution, such as the right to adequate education or the right to affordable housing.
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Many other democratic nations have followed the US model in enshrining certain rights in their constitutions. Countries whose written constitutions include a bill of rights include Germany, India and Japan.
The European Convention of Human Rights applies in those nations which are members of the Council of Europe. Persons who have experienced Convention-infringing human rights violations on the territory of ECHR-signatory nations can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
In authoritarian regimes there are generally few or no guaranteed inalienable rights; alternatively, such rights may exist but be unobserved in practice (as was generally the case in the former Francoist Spain).
- Bill of Rights
- Civil rights
- Constitutional law
- Human rights
- Inalienable rights
- Natural rights
- Rule of law
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