due process

What Is Due Process? Understanding the 14th Amendment

We have specific civil rights guaranteed to us by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Understanding those civil rights can mean the difference between freedom and prison. It can mean the difference between keeping your property and having it seized by the government. An essential element of the protection under the 14th Amendment is due process.

If you believe you have been denied your civil rights to life, liberty, or property, contact our civil rights attorneys immediately to discuss your options for seeking justice for civil rights violations.

What Is Due Process?

The 14th Amendment prohibits the government from depriving individuals of property, freedom, or their life without due process. The Due Process Clause describes the legal obligation of all government entities to use fair procedures and act within the law. It provides safeguards that protect people from having the government throw them in prison, take their property, or sentence them to death without going through specific steps. 

For example, substantive due process allows the courts to determine if the government had sufficient justification for specific actions. Procedural due process requires that government entities follow specific procedures before depriving someone of their property, life, or liberty.

Procedural Due Process

Examples of procedural due process include:

  • The right to call witnesses and present evidence in defense of the charges
  • Right to receive exculpatory evidence from the prosecution 
  • Right to appeal a judge’s or jury’s decision
  • The right to have a written record of the proceedings for review on appeal
  • The right to have a decision based solely on the evidence presented in court 

Other amendments in the Bill of Rights explain elements of due process. The Sixth Amendment affords individuals specific rights that serve to protect their freedom:

  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to a public trial
  • The right to be judged by an impartial judge or jury
  • The right to legal counsel
  • The right to a full explanation of the charges 
  • The right to full notice of the grounds for bringing the charges
  • The right to cross-examine witnesses presented by the state
  • The right to have the court compel favorable witnesses to appear to offer testimony 

Unfortunately, some law enforcement agencies and government entities believe that they are above the law. As a result, they abuse their power by violating due process laws. The result could be unlawful incarceration and the loss of other civil rights. 

Pursuing Allegations of Violations of Civil Rights

Due process is designed to ensure fairness in the criminal justice system. Without due process, individuals could be detained and deprived of their freedom and life without just cause. 

If a criminal defendant is deprived of their civil rights, they can challenge the state on those grounds. If the judge finds that the state violated the person’s civil rights, the judge may throw out the criminal charges. 

You can protect your civil rights by:

  • Exercising your right to remain silent and not talk to police officers 
  • Not providing any information that is not explicitly required by a search warrant
  • Never consent to a search of your home or business without a valid search warrant
  • Consulting an attorney as soon as possible 

It is important to note that a person should not resist arrest. Even if you believe it is a wrongful arrest, resisting arrest can escalate matters and result in additional criminal charges. Your lawyer will argue violations of civil rights in court.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Chicago Civil Rights Attorneys

If you believe that your civil rights were violated, protect yourself by discussing your situation with a civil rights attorney. You may have one or more legal options for recovering damages and holding parties accountable for violating your civil rights. Contact our office today for a free consultation.