Do You Know Your Rights?

No matter which country you’re in, living in or visiting, it’s important to know your rights while you are there if something should happen. However, many people do not know their rights and what they are entitled to. While there are many many different scenarios you could find yourself in, here are a few where you might need to know what to do.


In America, the Bill of Rights was created to protect the rights of individuals from the government’s interference, they guarantee rights such as religious freedom, freedom of the press, and trial by jury to all American citizens and were added to the Constitution in the form of amendments. They are:

  • First Amendment: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, the right to assemble, the right to petition the government.
  • Second Amendment: The right to form a militia and to keep and bear arms.
  • Third Amendment: The right not to have soldiers in one’s home.
  • Fourth Amendment: Protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Fifth Amendment: No one can be tried for a serious crime unless indicted (accused) by a grand jury. No one can be forced to testify against herself or himself. No one can be punished without due process of law. People must be paid for property taken for public use.
  • Sixth Amendment: People have a right to a speedy trial, to legal counsel, and to confront their accusers.
  • Seventh Amendment: People have the right to a jury trial in civil suits exceeding $20.
  • Eighth Amendment: Protection against excessive bail (money to release a person from jail), stiff fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Ninth Amendment: Because there are so many basic human rights, not all of them could be listed in the Constitution. This amendment means that the rights that are enumerated cannot infringe upon rights that are not contained in the Constitution.
  • Tenth Amendment: Powers not given to the federal government by the Constitution belong to the states or the people.

Following that, there are three critical additional amendments: The Thirteenth Amendment which was added in 1865 and says that Slavery shall not be allowed in the U.S; the Nineteenth Amendment added in 1920 which states that Women have the right to vote; and finally the Twenty-sixth Amendment added in 1971 which meant that U.S. citizens who are 18 years of age or older have the right to vote, where previously, they had to be 21 years old.

Your Rights as a Child

In 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child because “the child, because of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care” and because “in all countries of the world, children are living in tough conditions.” Following are highlights of the 41 articles of rights.

  • Every child has a right to life.
  • Every child has a right to a name at birth and nationality.
  • Every child has the right to live with his or her parent unless it is against the child’s best interests.
  • Special protection shall be given to refugee children.
  • Every child has the right to the highest standard of health and medical care possible.
  • The child has a right to education. The state is to ensure that primary school is free and compulsory.
  • No child shall be subjected to torture, cruel treatment, unlawful arrest, or deprivation of liberty.
  • Children under 15 shall not be recruited into the armed forces.

More specifically there might be rights you are not aware of if you encounter the authorities in the U.S.

What are your Rights at Airports and other ports of entry into the U.S.?

At airports and the border, you are likely to encounter Customs and Border Protection officers (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers. All visitors and lawful permanent residents are fingerprinted on entry into the United States from abroad. It has been known for officers to ask travelers to provide their laptop passwords or unlock their mobile phones. Whether you have a right to decline to provide this information is a contested legal issue. The extent to which officers have the authority to search or copy files in your electronic devices without any reasonable suspicion that the devices contain evidence of wrongdoing is also a contested issue. U.S. citizens cannot be denied entry to the United States for refusing to provide passwords or unlock devices, but refusal to do so might lead to delay, lengthy questioning, and officers seizing your device for further inspection. For lawful permanent residents and non-citizen visa holders, refusing to cooperate might also lead to officers denying your entry into the country. If an officer searches and confiscates your laptop or cell phone, write down his or her name and get a receipt for your property.

Demonstrating or Protesting

The First Amendment allows freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, the right to assemble, the right to petition the government, which means that you have the right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy. But it is also unfortunately true that governments and police can violate this right through the use of mass arrests, illegal use of force, criminalization of protest, and other means intended to thwart free public expression.

Standing up for your right to protest can be challenging, especially when demonstrations are met with violence. But knowing your rights is the most potent weapon you have against police abuse. Here’s what you need to know before heading out to exercise your constitutionally protected right to protest:

The First Amendment prohibits restrictions based on the content of speech. However, this does not mean that the Constitution completely protects all types of speech in every circumstance. Police and government officials are allowed to place certain narrowly drawn “time, place and manner” restrictions on the exercise of First Amendment rights — for example, permit requirements for large groups using public parks or limits on the loudness of sound amplifiers. Any such restrictions must apply to all speech regardless of its point of view.

What are your rights if the police stop you?

We rely on the police to keep us safe and treat us all fairly, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion.

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
  • If you are not under arrest, you have the right to leave calmly.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

If you are stopped for questioning, remember to stay calm, don’t run, don’t argue, resist or obstruct the police, even if you are innocent or police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them. You have the right to ask them if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.

You also have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you wish to remain silent, tell the officer out loud. In some states, you must give your name if asked to identify yourself. You also do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings, but police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a weapon. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.


Do you know your rights if the police or immigration come to your door?

You’re generally not required to open the door to anyone. Immigration and the police can’t come into your home without a warrant signed by a judge. Again, you have the right to remain silent as immigration can use anything you say against you. Make sure you stay calm and do not run, use your phone to take photos and notes about the raid, but stay calm and do not run.

Do not sign forms you don’t understand or don’t want to sign. A lawyer who knows deportation defense may be able to help you fight your case.

Rights vary in different states so wherever you live or are visiting make sure you do your research and know what you are entitled to should anything ever happen. There are lawyers and advice for everything; if you are a keen cyclist and need help there is even such a thing as a Bicycle Accident Lawyer, should you ever need one. In different states, you will find information and advice on whatever it is you want to read up on should you ever get into difficulty.