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What Does Due Process Mean?

Noel Peel

Written by

Noel Peel


September 20, 2018


Due process is basically a legal requirement that no citizen be deprived of their legal rights without properly application of the law. In other words, under due process, a person cannot have their property seized or be put in jail without first going through the legal system to determine if they are guilty of the crime they’ve been accused of and determining what punishment should be applied. Due process of the law is an important part of the American legal system and in other countries as well.

Magna Carta (UK)

Modern due process rights find their origins in England, long before mobile apps for lawyers were in demand. Clause 39 of Magna Carta, issued in 1215, John of England promised: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” At this time, due process of law became part of the rights of landowners who could seek redress from the King if the monarchy violated their due process rights. Magna Carta required the monarchy to obey the law and it prohibited it from randomly changing the law to suit their needs.

Due Process Right (U.S.)

While American due process rights find their origins in English law, it has evolved its own path and looks a little different. Due process rights are specifically spelled out in the 5th amendment and the 14th amendment. The 5th Amendment spells out an individual’s right to not be compelled to speak against themselves at their own trial and have that silence used against them. The 5th amendment also has a due process clause which safeguards a person from being deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law. It says: “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The 14th amendment says something similar: “Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

“No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

When the due process clause speaks of the “state” it is also speaking of Puerto Rico. Although Puerto Rico is not technically a state, it is still subject to due process laws. Also, when the due process clause speaks of a “person” it is referring to natural persons and entities such as corporations. Person also refers to citizens and noncitizens within the United States. Persons who are not citizens still have due process rights under the due process clause.

Due process is the legal requirement that requires the state to respect all the legal rights owed to a person. Due process balances the power of the state and protects the individual person from the power of the state. When a government harms a person without going through due process first, this constitutes a due process violation.

Vague Law Prohibited

Under the due process clause, vague laws violate a person’s due process because they are too unclear to be understood by the average person. Due process requires that laws be written in a way that is specific and understandable by the average individual. Vague laws make it too probable that a person’s due process will be violated because the law is misunderstood or interpreted in so many way as to make it impossible for any person to reliably stay within the constraints of the law. Vague laws can make a criminal out of even the most law-abiding person.

Procedural Due Process

Procedural due process is a concept that requires that a person be given notice and a chance to be heard when the state is taking action to deny them life, liberty or property. For example, this means that the state cannot simply put someone in jail for a crime without first notifying them and giving them the opportunity to defend themselves in court. This would also mean that the state could not just seize a person’s bank account because a creditor claimed that they were owed money. The state would first have to notify the person and allow them some type of opportunity to speak on their own behalf in a hearing before a decision or judgment can be made about the case.

Civil Procedural Due Process

Family law attorneys using family law case management software know that civil procedural due process is based on the concept of fundamental fairness. This concept asserts that a person’s due process is violated if a law or rule is fundamentally considered unfair by the values of the society. For example, it would be considered to be fundamentally unfair and a violation of a person’s due process if they were deprived of freedom without the opportunity to speak on their behalf at a trial.

Criminal Procedural Due Process

Personal injury claims software may be used in a criminal procedural due process dealing with a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial and a fair process. Due process rights include the right of a person to be notified of all their rights in a timely manner and the right to have access to legal counsel. This may require the state to provide legal counsel to the defendant. Another example of criminal procedural due process is that a person cannot be simply executed because they’ve been accused of a horrendous crime and they cannot simply be placed in a mental institution because they are behaving in “insane” ways. Someone facing execution or commitment to a mental institution must go through a process that has been set up to determine if these are appropriate remedies.

Substantive Procedural Due Process

Substantive procedural due process restricts the power of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to redefine due process and infringe upon the constitutional rights of people. In other words, the state cannot simply do away with due process.

Many of the rights and protections people enjoy in the United States have their origins in due process rights. Due process rights are basically the guarantee that a person has the right to the fair application of the law before they can be imprisoned, executed, or have their property seized. This concept is responsible for all the procedures that guarantee a fair trial no matter who you are.

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