By: Mark Diaz
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Why Is Due Process Important?
If you are charged with a crime, all of the rights that protect you, from the right to counsel to the right to remain silent to the right to a jury, all fall under the umbrella of “due process.” It is “due process” that is designed to protect criminal defendants from passion and prejudice and ensure every individual who faces prosecution by the state has the ability to mount a full and complete defense.
Due process is first embraced in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” (The Fourteenth Amendment provides the same protection as to actions by the states). Other amendments in the Bill of Rights address specific elements of due process, most importantly the Sixth Amendment, which affords criminal defendants seven (7) specific rights, all of which are essential to protecting our rights and our freedom:
- Right to a speedy trial
- Right to a public trial
- Right to an unbiased tribunal or impartial jury
- Right to full notice and explanation of the charges being brought and the grounds for bringing such charges
- Right to counsel
- Right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses
- Right to have the court compel favorable witnesses to appear
In addition to the foregoing rights set forth in the Sixth Amendment, due process also includes the following:
- Right to receive exculpatory or opposing evidence from prosecutors
- Right to call witnesses and present evidence
- Right to make a record that can be reviewed on appeal
- Right to have a decision based solely on the evidence presented
- Right to review or appeal of a judge or jury’s decision
Why Does “Due Process” Matter to a Criminal Defendant?
Due process in criminal cases has many facets and nuances, and the ways in which defendants can be deprived of due process are numerous. When any element of due process is missing during a criminal prosecution, the fairness and constitutionality of the state’s attempt to deprive an individual of their freedom has been compromised. A defendant whose due process rights have been violated can challenge the prosecution on those grounds and potentially have the charges thrown out. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the complexities of due process and who will aggressively protect your constitutional rights can be of critical importance when you’ve been charged with a crime.
Tips to Protect Your Due Process Rights
Because of the complexities of any criminal matter involving your civil liberties, some tips may help you handle possible due process violations and preserve your rights.
- If you are or believe you are under investigation, recognize that you do have rights even before an arrest.
- Do not provide police with any information that is not specifically indicated by a search warrant.
- Never consent to a search of your home or business without a warrant.
- If you are under arrest, exercise your right to remain silent and have access to legal counsel. Your only statements should be a request to contact your Galveston criminal defense lawyer.
- Under no circumstances should you resist arrest. Due process violations are not a subject to raise when law enforcement is taking you into custody. There will be many opportunities to address civil rights issues during the criminal process after the arrest. Fighting police will only make the situation worse and will not be taken lightly by the reviewing court later, even if it is proven your due process rights were in fact being violated.
How a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help During the Legal Process
The most important advantages for retaining a criminal defense lawyer are experience and knowledge. Unless you have a legal background, you likely don’t know where to begin with addressing due process violations or other anomalies in the criminal process. A criminal defense attorney can also help with various tasks related to due process, such as:
- Guiding you during pre-arrest stages to ensure government officials do not trounce upon your civil rights
- Representing you when police execute a search warrant of your home, business, or other spaces where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy
- Taking the lead when detectives subject you to interrogation and interviews and advise you on when to remain silent
- Appearing in court for your arraignment to ensure compliance with due process requirements on reading the charges in open court and entering a plea
- Advocating on your behalf throughout the pretrial, when there are numerous opportunities for officials to infringe upon your rights; and
- Navigating the trial process to ensure fairness at the proceeding and beyond. It may be necessary to preserve your due process rights even through the appeals stage, and your attorney can do this by objecting to evidence and testimony.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Galveston County, TX About Civil Rights Issues
This overview of due process may be useful for understanding the basics, but the concept is complex and difficult to navigate in the criminal justice context without adequate training and experience. On a positive note, if government officials do violate your due process rights, you likely have a solid, effective defense that could lead to a dismissal of the charges. In other cases, it might be possible to work out a favorable plea agreement with a prosecutor who realizes that the evidence against you is questionable.
If you have questions about due process or concerns regarding unconstitutional treatment, please call (409) 515-6170 to reach Mark Diaz, Criminal Defense Attorney. You can set up a free consultation with a Galveston criminal defense attorney who can explain the relevant concepts. Our team represents clients throughout Galveston County and Greater Houston in a wide range of criminal defense matters, so we are prepared to fight for your rights.