“Due process” is a term that we have all heard before. Many people know that it involves certain rights under the U.S. Constitution. However, it’s important to know exactly what those rights are – and how to invoke them – in order to be able to recognize when they are being violated.
Below outlines a brief summary of what your due process rights are, and where they come from.
What due process rights guarantee
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution gives you due process rights in criminal proceedings at the federal level, and the Fourteenth Amendment extends those same rights to criminal proceedings in state courts.
Together, these amendments exist to make sure that the government cannot take away your liberty or property without giving you a fair and honest opportunity to hire an attorney, put together an argument, and defend yourself in a court of law.
How these rights are sometimes violated
Due process does not just mean that have a right to have a criminal hearing before a court of law. It also protects you from any police actions that could taint the fairness of that criminal trial.
A well-known example of this is a line-up. Sometimes police will line up similarly looking individuals in front of an eyewitness to a crime or event to see if that eyewitness can identity the culprit. However, in certain cases, the police will design the lineup in a way that draws the witness’s attention toward one particular individual, increasing the odds that the witness will identify that individual as the perpetrator.
Is this fair? No and that individual’s due process rights were likely violated. Having an attorney to protect these rights and ensure the set-up was fair is vital to the criminal justice process.