To search this document, click "Control F" to call the find form of your browser. PREAMBLE Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia, in and through the provisions of this Constitution, reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God and seek diligently to promote, preserve and perpetuate good government in the state of West Virginia for the common welfare, freedom and security of ourselves and our posterity.
Relations to the government of the United States. The constitution of the United States of America, and the laws and treaties made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land.
Internal government and police. The government of the United States is a government of enumerated powers, and all powers not delegated to it, nor inhibited to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people thereof. Among the powers so reserved to the states is the exclusive regulation of their own internal government and police; and it is the high and solemn duty of the several departments of government, created by this constitution, to guard and protect the people of this state from all encroachments upon the rights so reserved.
Continuity of constitutional operation. The provisions of the constitution of the United States, and of this state, are operative alike in a period of war as in time of peace, and any departure therefrom, or violation thereof, under the plea of necessity, or any other plea, is subversive of good government, and tends to anarchy and despotism.
For the election of representatives to Congress, the state shall be divided into districts, corresponding in number with the representatives to which it may be entitled; which districts shall be formed of contiguous counties, and be compact. Each district shall contain, as nearly as may be, an equal number of population, to be determined according to the rule prescribed in the constitution of the United States.
The territory of the following counties, formerly parts of the commonwealth of Virginia, shall constitute and form the state of West Virginia, viz: The state of West Virginia includes the bed, bank and shores of the Ohio River, and so much of the Big Sandy River as was formerly included in the commonwealth of Virginia; and all territorial rights and property in, and jurisdiction over, the same, heretofore reserved by, and vested in, the commonwealth of Virginia, are vested in and shall hereafter be exercised by the state of West Virginia.
And such parts of the said beds, banks and shores as lie opposite, and adjoining the several counties of this state, shall form parts of said several counties respectively.
Powers of government in citizens. The powers of government reside in all the citizens of the state, and can be rightfully exercised only in accordance with their will and appointment. All persons residing in this state, born, or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, shall be citizens of this state. Every citizen shall be entitled to equal representation in the government, and, in all apportionments of representation, equality of numbers of those entitled thereto, shall as far as practicable, be preserved.
No distinction shall be made between resident aliens and citizens, as to the acquisition, tenure, disposition or descent of property. Treason, what constitutes -- Penalty. Treason against the state shall consist only in levying war against it, or in adhering to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort.
No person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. Treason shall be punished according to the character of the acts committed, by the infliction of one, or more, of the penalties of death, imprisonment or fine, as may be prescribed by law. The present seal of the state, with its motto, "Montani Semper Liberi," shall be the great seal of the state of West Virginia, and shall be kept by the secretary of state, to be used by him officially, as directed by law.
Writs, commissions, official bonds -- Indictments. Writs, grants and commissions, issued under the authority of this state, shall run in the name of, and official bonds shall be made payable to the state of West Virginia. Indictments shall conclude, "Against the peace and dignity of the state.
All men are, by nature, equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity, namely: The enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Magistrates servants of people. All power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. Magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them. Rights reserved to people. Government is instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation or community. Of all its various forms that is the best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.
Writ of habeas corpus. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended. No person shall be held to answer for treason, felony or other crime, not cognizable by a justice, unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury. No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of a contract, shall be passed.
Excessive bail not required. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted. Penalties shall be proportioned to the character and degree of the offence. No person shall be transported out of, or forced to leave the state for any offence committed within the same; nor shall any person, in any criminal case, be compelled to be a witness against himself, or be twice put in jeopardy of life or liberty for the same offence.
Unreasonable searches and seizures prohibited. The rights of the citizens to be secure in their houses, persons, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. No warrant shall issue except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized.
Freedom of speech and press guaranteed. No law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, shall be passed; but the Legislature may, by suitable penalties, restrain the publication or sale of obscene books, papers, or pictures, and provide for the punishment of libel, and defamation of character, and for the recovery, in civil actions, by the aggrieved party, of suitable damages for such libel, or defamation.
Relating to civil suits for libel. In prosecutions and civil suits for libel, the truth may be given in evidence; and if it shall appear to the jury, that the matter charged as libelous is true, and was published with good motives, and for justifiable ends, the verdict shall be for the defendant.
Private property, how taken. Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use, without just compensation; nor shall the same be taken by any company, incorporated for the purposes of internal improvement, until just compensation shall have been paid, or secured to be paid, to the owner; and when private property shall be taken, or damaged for public use, or for the use of such corporation, the compensation to the owner shall be ascertained in such manner as may be prescribed by general law: Provided, That when required by either of the parties, such compensation shall be ascertained by an impartial jury of twelve freeholders.
Safeguards for life, liberty and property. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, and the judgment of his peers.
Political tests, requiring persons, as a prerequisite to the enjoyment of their civil and political rights, to purge themselves by their own oaths, of past alleged offences, are repugnant to the principles of free government, and are cruel and oppressive. No religious or political test oath shall be required as a prerequisite or qualification to vote, serve as a juror, sue, plead, appeal, or pursue any profession or employment.
Nor shall any person be deprived by law, of any right, or privilege, because of any act done prior to the passage of such law. Military subordinate to civil power. Standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty. The military shall be subordinate to the civil power; and no citizen, unless engaged in the military service of the state, shall be tried or punished by any military court, for any offence that is cognizable by the civil courts of the state.
No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without consent of the owner; nor in time of war, except in the manner to be prescribed by law. Right of jury trial. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy exceeds twenty dollars exclusive of interest and costs, the right of trial by jury, if required by either party, shall be preserved; and in such suit in a court of limited jurisdiction a jury shall consist of six persons.
No fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any case than according to the rule of court or law. Trials of crimes -- Provisions in interest of accused. Trials of crimes, and of misdemeanors, unless herein otherwise provided, shall be by a jury of twelve men, public, without unreasonable delay, and in the county where the alleged offence was committed, unless upon petition of the accused, and for good cause shown, it is removed to some other county.
In all such trials, the accused shall be fully and plainly informed of the character and cause of the accusation, and be confronted with the witnesses against him, and shall have the assistance of counsel, and a reasonable time to prepare for his defence; and there shall be awarded to him compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor. Voluntary contemplation, meditation or prayer in schools.
Public schools shall provide a designated brief time at the beginning of each school day for any student desiring to exercise their right to personal and private contemplation, meditation or prayer. No student of a public school may be denied the right to personal and private contemplation, meditation or prayer nor shall any student be required or encouraged to engage in any given contemplation, meditation or prayer as a part of the school curriculum.
Right of public assembly held inviolate. The right of the people to assemble in a peaceable manner, to consult for the common good, to instruct their representatives, or to apply for redress of grievances, shall be held inviolate.
Courts open to all -- Justice administered speedily. The courts of this state shall be open, and every person, for an injury done to him, in his person, property or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law; and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay. Conviction not to work corruption of blood or forfeiture.
No conviction shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture of estate. No hereditary emoluments, honors or privileges shall ever be granted or conferred in this state. Preservation of free government. Free government and the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people only by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles. Jury service for women.
Regardless of sex all persons, who are otherwise qualified, shall be eligible to serve as petit jurors, in both civil and criminal cases, as grand jurors and as coroner's jurors. Right to keep and bear arms. A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use. The citizens of the state shall be entitled to vote at all elections held within the counties in which they respectively reside; but no person who is a minor, or who has been declared mentally incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction, or who is under conviction of treason, felony or bribery in an election, or who has not been a resident of the state and of the county in which he offers to vote, for thirty days next preceding such offer, shall be permitted to vote while such disability continues; but no person in the military, naval or marine service of the United States shall be deemed a resident of this state by reason of being stationed therein.
Mode of voting by ballot. In all elections by the people, the mode of voting shall be by ballot; but the voter shall be left free to vote by either open, sealed or secret ballot, as he may elect. Voter not subject to arrest on civil process. No voter, during the continuance of an election at which he is entitled to vote, or during the time necessary and convenient for going to and returning from the same, shall be subject to arrest upon civil process, or be compelled to attend any court, or judicial proceeding, as suitor, juror or witness; or to work upon the public roads; or, except in time of war or public danger, to render military service.
Persons entitled to hold office -- Age requirements. No person, except citizens entitled to vote, shall be elected or appointed to any state, county or municipal office; but the governor and judges must have attained the age of thirty, and the attorney general and senators the age of twenty-five years, at the beginning of their respective terms of service; and must have been citizens of the state for five years next preceding their election or appointment, or be citizens at the time this constitution goes into operation.
Oath or affirmation to support the constitution. Every person elected or appointed to any office, before proceeding to exercise the authority, or discharge the duties thereof, shall make oath or affirmation that he will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that he will faithfully discharge the duties of his said office to the best of his skill and judgment; and no other oath, declaration, or test shall be required as a qualification, unless herein otherwise provided.
Provisions for removal of officials. All officers elected or appointed under this constitution, may, unless in cases herein otherwise provided for, be removed from office for official misconduct, incompetence, neglect of duty, or gross immorality, in such manner as may be prescribed by general laws, and unless so removed they shall continue to discharge the duties of their respective offices until their successors are elected, or appointed and qualified.
General elections, when held -- Terms of officials. The general elections of state and county officers, and of members of the Legislature, shall be held on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, until otherwise provided by law. The terms of such officers, not elected, or appointed to fill a vacancy, shall, unless herein otherwise provided, begin on the first day of January; and of the members of the Legislature, on the first day of December next succeeding their election.
Elections to fill vacancies, shall be for the unexpired term.