Due process: it’s a phrase we often hear, but most people have little idea what it means. In the most general way, due process is a fairness doctrine, aimed at protecting the rights and liberties of both the accused and the accuser in a court of law.
For many, due process has become synonymous with the word “justice,” and the concept of “fair play.” Due process is, then, the set of rules which government and courts should follow in their relationships with the citizens of the United States.
Due process is guaranteed in the Constitution
The words “due process” are found twice in the Constitution:
- The 5th Amendment provides: “No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law….”
- The 14th Amendment, Section 1 provides: “No state shall… deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Commonly accepted due process rights
- The right to a fair and public trial
- The right to be present at one’s trial
- The right to an impartial jury
- The right to enter a defense and be heard
- The procedural rules for intruding evidence
- The right to understand what a law means – laws can’t be vague or ambiguous
- The rules for when the government can take your property
Due process belongs only to the courts and justice system
To use a popular example from recent news stories, say that one student in a private college accuses another student of an attempted rape. The private school decides to hold its own hearing, separate from any legal measures being handled by police and outside counsel, to determine what to do.
- The accuser “has a right” to be heard, and to have his/her accusations taken seriously. After all, his/her future is at stake.
- The accused “has a right” to be heard, and to have his/her defense taken seriously. After all, his/her future is at stake.
Under the school’s own guidelines, both students may indeed “have a right” to be heard and taken seriously. What they do not have is a right to due process, because that right deals with State action alone. How a private school chooses to handle these types of cases – whether they are bound by state or federal guidelines or not – has nothing to do with due process. The fairness doctrine legally only applies in a setting in which governmental action is taken against an individual. In a private school setting, such as this example, neither side is entitled to due process during their school’s hearing.
All defendants are entitled to due process. The fundamental essence of every jury trial is the right to be judged fairly. At Carey Law Office, we fight to protect your due process rights. We work to obtain acquittals, have charges dismisses, and have evidence suppressed. To speak with an aggressive defense lawyer, call us at 301-464-2500 or use our contact form to make an appointment. We’re located in Bowie and Crofton, and represent defendants throughout Maryland.