What does the Bill of Rights do?
The Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. It contains rights designed to guarantee individual freedom, several of which apply to criminal procedure. Many, but not all, of the criminal-law rights apply to the federal government and all state governments. For example, the Fourth Amendment prevents not only federal officers, but also their state counterparts, from carrying out unreasonable searches and seizures.
Among the parts of the Bill of Rights that apply to the states are:
- the unreasonable-search-and-seizure ban
- the prohibition against double jeopardy
- the privilege against self-incrimination
- the right to a speedy and public jury trial
- the right to counsel, and
- the bar against cruel and unusual punishment.
The states also have their own constitutions, which in many respects overlap with the federal Constitution and its amendments. But state constitutions cannot limit the individual freedoms provided by the Bill of Rights—they can only expand them. Put another way, “the federal Constitution thus represents the floor for basic freedoms; the state constitution, the ceiling.” (Traylor v. State, 596 So. 2d 957, 962 (Fla. 1992).)