Due Process

Due process is a foundational concept in the United States criminal justice system that guarantees fair treatment throughout the judicial system. Rooted in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, it serves as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by ensuring everyone receives equal protection under the law. 

Due process provides each individual with fundamental legal protections. This ensures all steps, from investigation through potential punishment, remain just and transparent, at least in theory. There are two types of due process, procedural and substantive:

Procedural Due Process

Procedural Due Process

Procedural due process refers to the legal procedures that must be followed by the state when investigating and prosecuting crimes. It is meant to ensure that every step of the process is fair. Some of the most important aspects of procedural due process include:

Right to a Fair and Public Hearing

This ensures trials are conducted with impartiality and transparency. A public hearing allows for community oversight, which helps prevent potential miscarriages of justice. 

Accused individuals have the right to be advised, assisted, and represented by an attorney if they’re facing criminal charges – for something as minor as shoplifting to something as serious as murder. If they cannot afford one, the court must provide them with a public defender or court-appointed lawyer. 

Right Against Unlawful Search and Seizure

The right to be free from unlawful search and seizure is a critical component of procedural due process, as defined by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This right protects individuals against unwarranted intrusions into their privacy by government officials or law enforcement agents. 

Law enforcement officers are typically required to have probable cause and obtain a warrant before conducting searches of personal property, residences, or vehicles (except in limited exceptions). 

Violations can result in evidence being suppressed, meaning it can’t be used against the defendant. 

Right Against Self-Incrimination

Popularly known as “pleading the Fifth,” the right against self-incrimination protects defendants from being forced to testify against themselves during criminal proceedings. 

Knowing your rights under procedural due process is essential, as it gives you the best chance to have your rights and freedoms protected.

Substantive Due Process

Substantive due process deals with the constitutionality of laws themselves without regard to how they are implemented. Unlike procedural due process, which focuses on ensuring fair processes, substantive due process requires that laws do not violate fundamental rights. Some important examples include the following:

Right to Privacy

This is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, but has been inferred from various amendments. It provides a basis for personal autonomy over certain intimate matters, such as contraception use and sexual activity between consenting adults.

Right To Refuse Medical Treatment

This involves your ability to make decisions about end-of-life care and physician-assisted suicide where legally allowed. Your rights typically encompass the ability to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment, including life support. You may execute an advanced directive or a living will that states your wishes regarding end-of-life care. 

Right To Procreate

This protects your ability to make decisions about whether and when to have children. Courts have generally recognized that forced sterilization or prohibiting individuals from having children would be a violation of a person’s rights.

Right To Travel 

Your right to travel encompasses the freedom to move between states without unreasonable restriction. States have limited power in imposing conditions that can prohibit or punish you for entering or leaving the state. 

Substantive due process ultimately protects your rights and ensures that laws do not unfairly impede on these critical areas of personal autonomy.

Contact a Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyer if Your Rights Have Been Violated

If you believe your rights have been violated, speaking with a lawyer is the most important step you can take. An experienced attorney will guide you through the complexities of the legal system, gather relevant evidence for your case, represent you in court if necessary, and help ensure that any infringements upon your rights don’t go unchallenged. 

For help, contact Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense attorney at (513) 333-0014.