What Are Individual Rights? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition of…
  • 1:14 Examples of Individual Rights
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Temante Leary

Temante has taught college Business, Law and Criminal Justice courses. He has a master's degree in business and a juris doctorate (law) degree.

In this lesson, you will learn what individual rights are and how they might apply to you. We will look at examples of individual rights and how they derive from our Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Definition of Individual Rights

Imagine a world where you could not own property or even a weapon to protect yourself and your family. You couldn't vote for the candidate of your choice in elections, couldn't speak freely without being arrested, and couldn't practice the religion you wanted. Imagine you could have your house searched by law enforcement at any time without a search warrant or be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment for committing a crime.

In such a world, you would have no individual rights. The United States was established based on democratic principles, and individual rights coincide with democracy. Democracy can be defined as everyone in society having formal equality of rights and privileges. The founding fathers put these ideals of democracy in the Constitution in the 1700s, and they continue to exist to this day.

Your individual rights guarantee individuals rights to certain freedoms without interference from the government or other individuals. These rights are derived from the Bill of Rights in our United States Constitution. The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments of the Constitution. Within the first ten amendments, your individual rights are specified. They apply to everyone within United States borders.

Examples of Individual Rights

There are many individual rights outlined in the Bill of Rights. Let's take a look at a few examples.

First Amendment Individual Rights - The First Amendment gives you the right of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For example, you can choose not to practice any religion at all, or be Catholic, Muslim, or Jewish. Another example is you can speak out against or for anything you want, whether you are criticizing the president of our country or publicly supporting a defendant accused of a heinous crime in a criminal case.

Second Amendment Individual Rights - The Second Amendment gives you the right to bear arms to defend yourself, protect your family and others, and even for hunting if you want. For example, you can purchase a rifle and use it to hunt deer or to defend yourself against an intruder trying to harm you and your family.

Fourth Amendment Rights - The Fourth Amendment gives you the right of privacy from any government intrusions without the government having a warrant and a probable cause to infringe upon your privacy. For example, the police cannot just decide to come into your home and search it because they do not like you. The police would first need to present evidence to a judge that they have a reason to search your home, and they need to get a warrant from that same judge.

Fifth Amendment Rights - The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent if you are being questioned by law enforcement. For example, if you are ever suspected by a police officer of a crime, and they try to interrogate or question you about it, you do not have to speak to them if you do not want to. The idea behind this right is that you have the right to protect yourself from saying something out of your own mouth that could get you in trouble, and you can instead speak through your attorney.

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