The First Freedoms
The Privacy Amendments
The 5th Amendment
The 6th Amendment
Civil Trials
The Interpretive Rules

The History of the Bill of Rights Since 1791

Consequences of Incorporation

Uniformity of the Interpretation of Rights

The incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the 14th Amendment has made the rights that state governments must observe much more uniform throughout the nation. Even before the doctrine of incorporation, most states already protected rights such as free speech and the free exercise of religion, but they might have interpreted those rights differently from the way the Supreme Court did. Now, all states are bound by the same standards by which the federal government is bound, at least for those rights that have been incorporated. There are a few exceptions to this uniformity. For example, while the 6th Amendment has been incorporated against the states, its requirements for jury trials in criminal cases are a little more stringent in federal courts than in state courts. 

Multiplicity of Important Court Cases

Related to the uniformity of interpretation, but of far greater consequence, is the way that constitutional questions seeking Supreme Court resolution have proliferated in the last century. Prior to incorporation, there were very few court cases that challenged laws as being contrary to guarantees found in the Bill of Rights, because the federal government passed very few laws that affected individual rights.

State laws, on the other hand, frequently present questions of constitutionality. Are the local police following the proper warrant procedures before searching a building? Does a city ordinance against strip clubs violate a stripper’s freedom of expression? Is the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment when it is applied to a juvenile offender? All of these questions, and many, many more, are potentially a violation of one of the rights in the Bill of Rights. Such questions have therefore packed court dockets for most of the last century.