Every US citizen is provided with a range of civil rights, as defined by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Understanding these civil rights is crucial in exercising your personal freedoms and securing protection against unwarranted government intrusion.
Among these privileges is due process, which plays an imperative role under this constitutional amendment.
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What Exactly Is Due Process?
At its core, due process—outlined in the 14th Amendment—imposes an obligation on the government to employ fair procedures before infringing upon an individual’s life, liberty, or property.’ Due process is afforded to you whether you’re charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.
There are two main categories of due process:
Substantive Due Process
Substantive due process examines whether the government had enough justification for its actions, with a primary focus on the protection of individual rights.
Situations prompting judicial review under substantive due process may include laws or restrictions deemed unfair and unreasonable without legitimate justification from governmental bodies. For example, violating someone’s privacy could be a substantive due process issue.
Procedural Due Process
On the other hand, procedural due process orders that before an individual’s life, liberty, or property is deprived, governments must follow an established set of procedures to ensure fairness. This protocol aims to foster transparency and predictability in administering justice.
Examples of Your Rights Afforded Under Due Process
Due process is an essential safeguard assured by the U.S. Constitution and affords individuals a variety of specific rights to ensure fairness within the legal system.
Right To Call Witnesses and Present Evidence
Procedural due process includes the right to call witnesses and present evidence in defense of any charges against you. This ensures that your side of events is thoroughly examined in court, emphasizing equal opportunity for justice.
Right to Receive Exculpatory Evidence From The Prosecution
The prosecution has a legal obligation to share exculpatory evidence – meaning any material that could possibly clear a defendant of guilt or reduce their liability in a crime. This crucial principle prevents the suppression of essential evidence, aiming to make sure the trial is unbiased and fair.
Right To Appeal
Another explicit right afforded under due process is the right to appeal a judge’s or jury’s decision. If you believe that there has been a legal error in your initial trial, you can challenge this through an appellate court.
You also have the right to have a written record of your trial proceedings. This is vital because it creates documented evidence and maintains transparency about what transpired in the courtroom.
Further Due Process Protections
The Bill of Rights provides several amendments which further articulate elements of due process. The Sixth Amendment is particularly noteworthy as it safeguards specific rights integral to maintaining a person’s freedom.
Right to a Full Explanation of the Charges
You are entitled to an unambiguous and complete explanation of the crimes alleged against you. This allows for both clarity in understanding your situation along with facilitating discussions with legal counsel on possible defenses or strategies.
Right to a Speedy Trial
Primarily meant to prevent undue and potentially prejudicial delay in criminal prosecutions, this clause assures you the right not to be subjected to long waiting periods between your arrest and trial.
Right to a Public Trial
The right to a public trial ensures transparency and discourages unjust actions from the court, largely acting as a safeguard against government misconduct in judicial proceedings.
Right To Cross-Examine Witnesses
Your rights also include the ability to cross-examine witnesses presented by the prosecution. This means you or your attorney can engage in the questioning of the state’s witnesses to challenge their testimony, assess credibility, and elicit further information that may be beneficial for your defense.
Right To Be Judged by an Impartial Judge or Jury
This means those deciding your fate should not hold any preconceived notions about you or the case, and they need to make decisions based solely upon evidence presented during trial. Having an impartial decision-maker is crucial for maintaining fairness in our justice system.
Right to Legal Counsel
The Sixth Amendment also guarantees your right to legal counsel. This means that you are entitled to have a qualified attorney represent you, provide advice, and act on your behalf during court proceedings. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided to you free of charge.
Protecting Your Rights
Safeguarding your rights amid an encounter with law enforcement is essential, as it can greatly influence the outcome of any potential legal implications.
Never Consent to a Search
It’s within your rights to deny law enforcement the ability to search your home or business in absence of a valid warrant. If a police officer attempts to perform such a search without one, kindly yet firmly decline and state that you do not consent unless presented with an order from the court.
Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent
During interactions with police officers, remember you have a constitutional right to remain silent. This means that outside of providing basic information like name and address, you don’t need to answer additional questions without having an attorney present. Expressly state that you wish to remain silent and would like to speak to an attorney.
Always Work With a Lawyer
Though these safeguards aim to promote justice within the criminal justice system, rights are still violated. Even with constitutional guarantees in place, some criminal defendants experience unfair or biased trials or wait for months or years in jail before having a trial.
An Experienced Louisville Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you’re facing criminal charges, the most important thing you can do to ensure your rights are protected is to work with a trusted Louisville criminal defense lawyers. Let us help you; contact Suhre & Associates to schedule a free consultation.