The Bill o' Rights lite

John Perry Barlow

January 28, 1993|By John Perry Barlow

WITH quiet efficiency, our understanding of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution has been profoundly revised by the state and federal judiciary during the last couple decades, sparing us the untidy political melee of a constitutional convention. In light of these changes, a new Bill of Rights, based on current case law, might look something like what follows:

AMENDMENT I.: Congress shall encourage the practice of Judeo-Christian religion by its own public exercise thereof and shall make no laws abridging the freedom of responsible speech, unless such speech is in a digitized form or contains material that is copyrighted, classified, proprietary or deeply offensive to non-Europeans, non-males, differently-abled or alternatively preferenced persons; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, unless such assembly is taking place on corporate or military property or within an electronic environment; or to petition the government for a redress of grievances, unless those grievances relate to national security.

AMENDMENT II.: A well-regulated Militia having become irrelevant to the security of the State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms against each other shall nevertheless remain uninfringed, excepting such arms as may be afforded by the poor or those preferred by drug pushers, terrorists and organized criminals, which shall be banned.

AMENDMENT III.: No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, unless that house is thought to have been used for the distribution of illegal substances.

AMENDMENT IV.: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, may be suspended to protect public welfare. Upon the unsupported suspicion of law-enforcement officials, any place or conveyance shall be subject to immediate search, and any such places or conveyances or property within them may be permanently confiscated.

AMENDMENT V.: Any person may be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime involving illicit substances, terrorism or upon any suspicion whatever; and may be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, once by the state courts and again by the federal judiciary; and may be compelled by various means, including the forced submission of breath samples, bodily fluids or encryption keys to be a witness against himself, refusal to do so constituting an admission of guilt, and may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without further legal delay; and any private property thereby forfeited shall be dedicated to the discretionary use of law enforcement agents without just compensation.

AMENDMENT VI.: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and private plea-bargaining session before pleading guilty. He is entitled to the assistance of underpaid and indifferent counsel to negotiate his sentence, except where such sentence falls under federal mandatory sentencing requirements.

AMENDMENT VII.: In suits at common law, where the contesting parties have unlimited resources to spend on legal fees, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.

AMENDMENT VIII.: Sufficient bail may be required to ensure that dangerous criminals will remain in custody, where cruel and unusual punishments are usually inflicted.

AMENDMENT IX.: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others which may be retained by the government to preserve public order, family values or national security.

AMENDMENT X.: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the Departments of Justice and Treasury, except when the states are willing to forsake federal financing.

John Perry Barlow is a lyricist for the Grateful Dead.

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