AP US Government : Civil Rights

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP US Government

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Civil Rights

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) Supreme Court case resulted in what controversial interpretation of the first amendment? 

Possible Answers:

Corporation personhood does not extend to religious observances.

Corporations may organize political contributions of their employees but may not contribute themselves.

Corporations qualify as "persons" for the purposes of protected free speech.

Election contributions are not speech and are not protected by the first amendment.

Political spending by members of Congress can not be limited in any way.

Correct answer:

Corporations qualify as "persons" for the purposes of protected free speech.

Explanation:

The Citizens United case famously established that the First Amendment protects person's political contributions as free speech and that corporations qualify for this sort of protection. A student who knows that the case involved corporations and free speech should be able to quickly narrow down the answers.

Example Question #1 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

Which court case ruled that students can refuse to salute the flag, as per the First Amendment?

Possible Answers:

Griswold v. Connecticut

W.V. State Board of Education v. Barnette

Bethel School District v. Fraser

Lau v. Nichols

Romano v. Harrington

Correct answer:

W.V. State Board of Education v. Barnette

Explanation:

Traditionally, the Pledge of Allegiance was considered by many to be mandatory. The freedom of speech act allows citizens to choose whether or not to say the Pledge in public schools.

Example Question #1 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District established the precedent that courts use to determine whether or not public schools are violating the First Amendment?

Possible Answers:

The Lewdness and Speech Doctrine

The Public Speech Doctrine

The Tinker Test

The Equal Time Rule

None of the other answers are correct

Correct answer:

The Tinker Test

Explanation:

The Tinker Test is used when a state facility uses major disciplinary actions against a disruptive student. The First Amendment protects students from uninformed or unfair dismissals, and the precedent established in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District allows courts to easily arbitrate these situations.

Example Question #1 : Civil Rights

According to the Supreme Court, which of the following actions does NOT quality as symbolic speech?

Possible Answers:

Intentionally destroying a military draft card

Deliberately burning the American flag

The public display of a burning cross

Excluding various groups of participants from a public parade

Correct answer:

Intentionally destroying a military draft card

Explanation:

Perhaps the murkiest of all free speech issues can be found when considering the topic of symbolic speech. The Supreme Court defines symbolic speech as any action (typically carried out nonverbally) that is intended to express a personal opinion. In a sense, because such actions are normally carried out publically and are designed to make a dramatic or otherwise influential impact upon the viewer, the Court has ruled that the protections of the First Amendment are therefore applicable to these scenarios. However, the Court has yet to fully clarify precisely which actions are classified as symbolic speech and, conversely, which activities are not protected; instead, the Court has dealt with issues on an individual basis by deciding on the protected status of specific actions on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps the most famous case of symbolic speech involves the deliberate burning of the American flag, which citizens have done as a form of protest. Although many Americans, some justices included, dislike this action, the Court has ruled that burning the American flag does, in fact, quality as symbolic speech and is therefore allowed. Other protected acts of symbolic speech include the public display of a burning cross (unless explicit and directly connected threats are made) and the willful exclusion of a group from a public parade. A person may not, however, burn their military draft card as a form of protest, as the Court holds that a draft card, because it is issued by the federal government, is therefore federal property and cannot be destroyed without consent. Clearly, further clarification of symbolic speech is necessary and most likely forthcoming.

Example Question #5 : Freedom Of Speech, Assembly, And Expression

According to the Supreme Court, which form of speech is NOT protected by the First Amendment?

Possible Answers:

Speech regarding violent rebellion against any level of government

Libellous speech

Speech promoting anarchy or Communism

Slanderous speech

Correct answer:

Libellous speech

Explanation:

According to the precedents and rulings set by the Supreme Court, the First Amendment protects many forms of free speech, including the promotion of anarchy or Communism, public criticism of the government’s policies during wartime, and even speech regarding the violent overthrow of the government – provided that such language does not explicitly lead to violent activity. However, the Court has found that the First Amendment does not, in fact, protect libelous speech. Although libel is often confused with slander, the two terms are legally different – libel is defined as a written negative statement about an individual, while slander (which is protected by the First Amendment) pertains to spoken speech only. Yet the Court has also set very high standards for any individual seeking to sue for libel, especially if the individual in question is a public figure (such as a politician or celebrity). According to the Court, the plaintiff (the person bringing the libel charge) must prove not only that the written statements in question are false but also that the accused author intentionally penned the comments with harmful intent. In other words, in order to win a libel case, the plaintiff must be able to be prove that the accused author willfully lied in an attempt to injure the plaintiff’s reputation and/or life. Such a standard is clearly quite difficult to meet – after all, how precisely does someone find absolute proof of another person’s inner motivations? Libel cases are thus hardly ever decided in favor of the plaintiff, although private individuals (aka average citizens) do have a very slightly higher success rate.

Example Question #1 : Civil Rights

The Supreme Court Case Gregg v. Georgia (1976) established what government action as constitutional under certain strict requirements?

Possible Answers:

Income tax

Searches of public school students

Capital punishment

Imminent domain land seizures

Affirmative action

Correct answer:

Capital punishment

Explanation:

The Supreme Court had placed a moratorium on the death penalty in the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia. However, a majority of the justices had ruled in Furman that capital punishment was only unconstitutional as then currently practiced. With the Gregg decision, many new capital punishment laws, with stricter standards for which defendants were eligible and how due process would unfold, were ruled as legitmately constitutional, ending the four year moratorium on the death penalty.

Example Question #2 : Civil Rights

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you . . .” This [now somewhat famous] warning comes from the result in Miranda v. Arizona, but which constitutional amendment forms the basis for this “Miranda” warning? 

Possible Answers:

Twelfth Amendment 

Fourteenth Amendment 

Fifth Amendment 

Twentieth Amendment 

Eighth Amendment 

Correct answer:

Fifth Amendment 

Explanation:

The Fifth Amendment is the correct answer. Recall, the Fifth Amendment has multiple “clauses” or parts, including all of the following clauses: the ‘takings,’ grand jury, double jeopardy, due process, and—the reason the answer is correct—the self-incrimination clause. While this answer may sound like it stems from the Eighth Amendment (as it deals with things like excessive punishments), it does not.

The Eighth Amendment (above) deals with excessive/cruel punishment;

The Twentieth Amendment reduced the amount of “lame duck” time faced by an outgoing Congress.

The Twelfth Amendment restructured the way in which the President and Vice President were elected from the winner (president) and runner up (vice-president) to two different ballots (that is, the President and Vice President are elected separately by the Electoral College). Can you see why the first way would be uncomfortable for the President/VP? (Hint: it has to do with political parties). 

The Fourteenth Amendment, similar to the Fifth, has many clauses (due process, equal protection, etc) none of which are relevant here. 

Example Question #1 : Civil Rights

Which Amendment prohibits excessive bail?

Possible Answers:

The 9th Amendment

The 7th Amendment

The 17th Amendment

The 8th Amendment

Correct answer:

The 8th Amendment

Explanation:

This Amendment is designed to protect those that have been arrested and also those that have been found guilty of crimes. This Amendment is meant to ensure that a person is not over punished for a crime and attempts to stop someone from being punished out of vengeance. The Amendment also wants to limit the bail that can be placed on someone while that person is waiting for trail, as it used to be that only the rich could afford post bail, which was very unfair to those that were not wealthy.

Example Question #1 : Civil Rights

The Right to an Attorney is found under which Amendment?

Possible Answers:

The 13th Amendment

The 6th Amendment

The 20th Amendment

The 10th Amendment

Correct answer:

The 6th Amendment

Explanation:

This Amendment provides various protections for those going through a trial, including the right “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” This was included to ensure that people have the help of someone who understands the law and could defend the accused and to protect against the government putting someone on trial and the accused having no idea what happens during a trial or how to defend him/herself.

Example Question #5 : Civil Rights

Select the one right granted to defendants that is NOT included in the Constitution.

Possible Answers:

The Miranda Rights 

The right to refuse to incriminate oneself 

The right to confront any witnesses 

The right not to be made a victim of "cruel and unusual punishment" 

Correct answer:

The Miranda Rights 

Explanation:

Several Constitutional Amendments deal with the protections afforded to those citizens who find themselves accused of a crime, whether on the national, state, or local levels. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from “unreasonable searches and seizures;” police officials cannot search any person or their property without a legally justified court warrant. The Fifth Amendment ensures that the accused individual may legally refuse to offer up any information that may implicate their involvement in or knowledge of a criminal act. This same Amendment also outlaws the practice of double jeopardy, meaning that an individual may not be put on trial twice (or any more times) for the same crime. The Sixth Amendment contains several rights: the accused has the right to receive the assistance of a lawyer, to confront any witnesses brought against them, and to have a “speedy trial” with fair jurors. The Seventh Amendment further reinforces the right to a trial by jury and the Eighth Amendment protects both accused and convicted defendants from any “cruel and unusual punishment” at the hands of the legal system. Surprisingly, the Miranda Rights (the famous list of rights which the police must legally read to anyone who is arrested) are not actually explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Rather, the Supreme Court actually drew up the Miranda Rights as part of a 1966 case, using the Fifth Amendment’s ban against forced self-incrimination as implied justification. The legal system is therefore bound to abide by these Miranda Rights just as if they were, in fact, actually enumerated in the Fifth Amendment.

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