Civil Rights

The Basic Constitutional Rights of a U.S. Citizen

Civil liberties are about freedom. They determine what you as an individual are free to do, and what the government cannot do to infringe on your freedom. People often use the terms "civil rights" and "civil liberties" interchangeably, but they're somewhat different. Rights protect you from unfair treatment under the law. Your individual civil liberties are those - inalienable - liberties mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

The Right to Life

Your right to life is more than a matter of waking in the morning and breathing. It involves making your own choices about how you're going to live. It means choosing a career that's right for you, not one the government has decided you should pursue. Your right to life lets you choose where you want to live and the freedom to live however you like. You can have children, or not have children, or have as many as you like. You can marry, or remain single. The right to life is about personal decisions.

The Right to Hold Property

Your right to hold property is an extension of your right to life. It doesn't mean the government has an obligation to give you property. It means that you have the right to earn income and then spend it however you want. Once you own something, the government can't in the normal course of events take it away from you. Some exceptions exist, such as if you file for bankruptcy or gain the property illegally.

The Right to Liberty

Liberty literally means freedom. Your constitutional civil liberty to freedom allows you to live your life free of government control. Of course, you have to pay taxes and obey laws. But the government can't force you to take certain actions against your will, in the interest of society at large. It can't tell you that you must vote a certain way. You have the right to make up your own mind about issues, including those that affect the whole country, not just yourself.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Your right to happiness overlaps your right to life in some respects. It gives you the freedom to pursue choices that give you pleasure, satisfaction, and self-fulfillment, as long as you don't break any laws in the process or hurt others. The government can't order you to live in a way you don't choose. It can't tell you that you must sacrifice your personal happiness for the good of your country.

A Civil Rights Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding civil liberties and individual rights is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a civil rights lawyer.

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