Constitution Day and Criminal Justice Studies

We celebrate Constitution Day on September 17 to recognize the adoption of the United States Constitution, which was signed by the delegates from twelve states (Rhode Island did not send delegates), during the Philadelphia Convention, which is now known as the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787.

In 2004, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day was established by federal law 36 U.S. Code § 106. On December 8, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the bill (public law 108-477) that designates September 17 as Constitution Day.

The Importance of the United States Constitution

The Constitution of the United States within the framework of seven (VII) articles establishes our system of government.

The Constitution created three (3) branches of government to ensure balance of power.

  1. Legislative Branch: Makes the laws. Congress has two (2) houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  2. Executive Branch: Enforces the laws. The executive branch consists of the President of the United States, Vice President of the United States, and Cabinet
  3. Judicial Branch: Interpret the laws. The judicial branch consists of the United States Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. The United States Supreme Court has nine Justices. The President of the United States chooses the United States Supreme Court Justices. The United States Senate must confirm the appointment. The United States Supreme Court Justices have a lifetime appointment to the bench when sworn.

Constitution Principles

  • Limited Government
  • Separation of Powers
  • Checks and Balances
  • Federalism

The Constitution and the Criminal Justice System

The Constitution sets our criminal justice system apart from many other forms of justice around the world. In our criminal justice system, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This fundamental assumption established by the United States Constitution to protect the rights and freedoms of our citizens. The presumption of innocence is core principle of our criminal justice system.

The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.

The Constitution under the federalism principle provides every state freedom to adopt laws that expand the rights of individuals guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States; however, the states cannot limit the rights of individuals guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. This applies to all states equally.

It is important to understand that law enforcement actions might be lawful under the Constitution of the United States and thus allowed; however, the actions of law enforcement might not be lawful by state law and thus not allowed. Remember, each state jurisdictional law applies as long as it does not limit the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. What is lawful in one state might not be lawful in another. Example of this would be concealed or open firearms carry. In Arizona concealed carry and open carry of firearms is lawful so law enforcement officers will take no action if they notice a citizen following state laws; however, doing the same thing in Maryland may lead to a lawful arrest under state law.

If the United States Supreme Court issues a decision (Case Law) stating that a particular law enforcement tactic, strategy, or action is unconstitutional under the United States Constitution, the decision and ruling is automatically binding for law enforcement officers in every state no matter the current state law. An example of this is the United States Supreme Court 1966 decision on Miranda v. Arizona that applies to all law enforcement officers in each state.

Our founding fathers knew the Constitution was not a perfect document; however, the United States Constitution declared we are a nation of laws to protect the liberty and freedom of individual rights.

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”.

This opening statement to the Constitution for the United States was a new experiment in the world. The people of a new nation will govern themselves by establishing a legal framework of government. A nation built of laws guaranteeing basic freedoms and liberty.

It is every United States citizen’s duty to understand the importance of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Celebrate September 17 with pride for we are a free nation, a nation that has a responsibility to defend and protect our Constitution.

God Bless the United States of America!

About the Author

Mark Bond

Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 33 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.