The Bill of Rights was put in a place to control the autonomy of the central government. It stipulated the extent to which the federal government could get involved in the affairs of the state governments and its doctrines were limited to the federal government. This means that it did not apply to the state governments (Foley, 2003). Each state, therefore, had its own constitution which provided the guidelines by which the state would operate. Over the years, the Bill of Rights has been amended a number of times. The fourteenth amendment provided a means by which particular guarantees could be applied to individual states as opposed to the earlier case when they applied only to the federal government (Hall, 2009). Selective incorporation is, therefore, the process by which the supreme court adopts certain laws in the Bill of Rights, which are binding to both the federal and the state governments. Before selective incorporation was bankrolled, it was not possible to sue the federal government regarding some issues under the federal constitution. For instance, if a person felt that his or her rights were infringed on by the federal government, say freedom of speech, he or she could not sue the federal government under the federal constitution. However, he or she could do that with the state constitution, more so if the state in question provided for a right of freedom of speech in its state constitution. Selective incorporation has led to a better understanding of civil liberties. Previously, civil liberties were accorded a narrow definition of acts of protection of the people from interference by the federal government. Today, civil liberties encompass not just protection of rights of freedom of speech and religion alone but more (Hall, 2009). Abortion, privacy, and even death are today classified under civil liberties. As a result, the emancipation of the masses has paved way for a more free and liberal American societies in which people are aware of their rights and duties as citizens. In contrast, state regulated civil liberties gave the states greater autonomy which would likely to be misused in the hands of uncanny leaders.
Gideon vs. Wainwright (1963)-6th Amendment
The case of Clarence Earl Gideon was one of the cases that came to the attention of the supreme court prompting a ruling that went against that of the state court of Florida (Neubauer, 2013). Gideon was accused of breaking into a pool hall in Florida and making away with money from the vending machines. During trial, he requested that he should be accorded an attorney as he did not have the financial capability to hire one himself (Neubauer, 2013). He was told that the state of Florida only provided attorneys to criminals who were facing maximum sentences such as death penalty. Consequently, the case was ruled upon and Gideon was sentenced to five years in prison. While in prison, he wrote to the United States supreme court appealing for a release as he had been convicted under unfair circumstances. This is after he had written to the Florida supreme court raising the same issue but with no success. The US supreme court reviewed the case in 1963 and decided that the circumstances under which the defendant was convicted were unconstitutional and against the defendant’s rights. It pointed out that all citizens who could not afford to hire an attorney had to be provided with one in line with the stipulations of the constitution (Foley, 2003). The court further noted that the sixth amendment was binding to both the states and the federal government and that the need for an attorney for a defendant was to provide for a fair trial. In the wake of all this, Clarence Gideon was accorded an attorney and went for a second time trial. After the hearing, he was acquitted of all charges leveled against him. This case was important to the evolution and transformation of a national concept of civil liberties as opposed to state regulated civil liberties. The ruling and the notes pointed out by the court provided a new meaning to criminal law. In addition, the supreme court emphasized the importance of certain laws in the Bill of Rights and pointed out that they applied to both the states and the federal government (Hall, 2009).