A Bill Of Rights for Witches?

In drawing up a new constitution with which to govern themselves after the Revolutionary War, Americans drew heavily both on their experiences as colonists and as former citizens of the British empire. Their challenge was to develop a government that was strong enough to be effective in carrying out the national will but not so strong so as to threaten their individual liberties.

To protect their individual liberties, Americans added a Bill of Rights to their new Constitution. The Bill of Rights is actually the first ten amendments to that Constitution. The rights of people accused of a crime are specifically provided for in Amendments 4, 5, 6, and 8.

Referring to a copy of the Constitution, make a list of those rights below. Then be prepared to discuss in class if the Witchcraft Trials, which were part of the colonial/British experience, had any impact on the Bill of Rights. How might the Witchcraft Trails have been different if the Bill of Rights had been in effect in 1692?

Rights of the Accused


  • A judge must issue a warrant before the police can conduct a search
  • There must be "probable cause" that a law is being violated before the issuance of the warrant
  • The police must swear an oath to get the warrant
  • The warrant must describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized


  • A person cannot be tried twice for the same crime
  • A person cannot be forced to testify against himself/herself
  • A person cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without "due process"


  • A person has the right to a speedy, public trial
  • A person has the right to a trial by a jury of his peers (equals)
  • The accused has the right to know the charges against him/her ahead of time
  • The accused has the right to confront (question) the witnesses against him/her
  • The accused has the right to a lawyer to aid in his/her defense
  • The state must require witnesses who can testify in defense of the accused to do so.


  • A person has the right to reasonable bail
  • "Cruel and unusual punishment" (torture etc. ) are forbidden
  • Fines must not be excessive

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