Weighing in at only 4,440 words, the United States Constitution is the shortest written constitution of any major government in the world.
Most of us studied the Constitution in school yet when was the last time you actually sat down and read it? Chances are if you did, you would be surprised to see what was missing. Blame TV, the movies, or faulty memories, the result is the same: Americans share common misperceptions about what actually appears in the Constitution.
How many of these misperceptions did you have before reading this article?
You have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Wrong. Neither the Constitution nor any of the amendments protect your “right” to happiness. The 5th and 14th Amendments protect your right to due process so the government cannot deprive you of life, liberty, or property without following certain procedures but nothing is said about happiness. The Declaration of Independence said you have a right to pursue happiness but when push came to shove, the founding fathers left that little detail out of the Constitution.
You are innocent until proven guilty. While you do have that right in a criminal trial, you can search from front to back and not find that guarantee anywhere in the Constitution or the amendments. The US Supreme Court actually recognized this as a right but not until 1895. There were some rights that the framers likely left out of the Constitution because they felt those rights were obvious and this was probably one of them. Other implied rights not found in the Constitution include the right to travel, marry, and privacy.
In a criminal trial, you are entitled to a 12-person jury of your peers. No provision specifies a 12-person jury; the number 12 is actually an “historical accident” and nowadays juries can be as small as 6 jurors. Of course, you might not get a jury at all depending on whether the crime is classified as a “petty offense” or not. As far as who sits on the jury, all the 6th Amendment says is that the accused is entitled to an impartial jury from the state and district where the crime occurred. If you are the accused, you will actually find yourself with a jury of the peers of your alleged victim.
Hopefully, you are inspired to grab a copy of the Constitution and its amendments. There are free versions are all over the internet. Take a close look at what is and is not contained within this document.
You might be surprised to find other rights are there…and what others are “missing.