Due process is one of the vital elements of the judicial system in the USA. In the USA, the government cannot deprive a person’s rights to life, liberty and property without following the due process of law. The due process appears in this country’s Constitution twice. The Clause in the Fifth Amendment applies to the federal government, its agencies and courts (Keynes, 1996). The Fourteenth Amendment Clause extends the due process to cover the state governments, their courts and agencies. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the Government or the courts from deprivation of property or liberty without applying the due process of law. Due process protects the rights of the civilians. It is a judicial requirement to ensure fairness and reasonable treatment of individuals. Every citizen has a right to procedural actions by the judicial systems before denial of the arrested person’s liberties.
The Clause guarantees fairness in various ways. It includes granting the accused the chance of hearing at a right time and a meaningful way. Fairness applies when there is the right decision that has substantial evidence in its support. Fairness puts the individual’s rights to life, liberty and property into consideration. For instance, no one can be put to death without the rigorous protections of the accused and without determining the other aggravating factors that justify the death (Keynes, 1996).
The USA government follows the legal systems called adversarial systems. In the adversarial system, both parties involved in a controversy bring out their arguments, present evidences, bring witnesses and questions and control the process of the trial within the provisions of the rules. While, on the other hand, a jury or a judge finds facts while remaining impartial and passive during the proceedings. The primary role of this system is the neutral refereeing between the two sides: the prosecution and the defense (Keynes, 1996).
This system follows certain procedures in carrying out the proceedings (Cowling, 2005). The USA Legal System follows various post arrest procedures. There are seven basic post arrest procedures. The first is the arraignment, a formal hearing in which the court informs a person about the charges and one’s rights and at the same time, one may request for representation by the attorney. Secondly, the preliminary hearing follows. In this, the state presents evidences to convince the court that the matter is fit for trial. At this level, the defense can cross-examine the witnesses. The next stage is the Grand Jury. In this, the 16 to 23 local citizens hear the prosecutor’s evidences and determine if it is strong enough to warrant an indictment (Cowling, 2005). The Grand Jury hears the prosecution side only at this stage. The fourth procedure is the indictment, a formal accusation whose purpose is to identify the charges against the accused. An indictment bases its grounds on a sworn testimony against the accused. Many times the “silent indictment” takes place before arrest without the awareness of the accused. In this case, the court issues a warrant of arrest and jails the accused until one’s arraignment.
The fifth procedure is the plea bargaining. The defense negotiates the disposition of the case. The accused may decide to plead guilty or go to trial. The attorney may evaluate the evidences presented against the accused and weigh the two outcomes. Sometimes an innocent person may plead guilty if one finds out that the evidence looks strong to avoid the tough judgment. Before the final trial, there are other pretrial procedures (Cowling, 2005). These procedures occur mostly to a criminal case. These include trial preparation that involves Motion for Discovery or Motion to suppress certain evidence. There may be a pretrial conference between the judge, the prosecutor and the attorney. In addition, there may be suppression hearings or pretrial hearings that may involve a Huntley hearing, Dunaway hearing, Wade hearing, MAPP hearing or a Sandoval hearing (Cowling, 2005). The final procedure is the trial by the jury. The court selects 12 juries after giving both sides an opportunity to determine fair juries. After this, the prosecutor presents the opening statement to the seated jury followed by the defense attorney. Then the prosecutor presents evidences and questions the witness. The defense attorney also cross-examines the witnesses. The defense side also presents their evidences and arguments. When all these are complete, the judge reads the law to the court and sends the jury to go and deliberate and come up with an unanimous verdict (Cowling, 2005).
The USA Constitution prevents wrongful accusations and convictions in unfair trials of people. Despite the call for stricter penalties in combating the ever increasing crime, the Constitution is still in favor of the accused. The judicial system of the USA still assumes mistakes can occur while passing judgment (Bodenhamer, 1992). The Constitution provides for protection of the accused against mistakes that may occur in the judicial systems. It guarantees an accused person a variety of rights that ensure fairness in all the legal proceedings carried out. First the Constitution states that the government must indicate the circumstances for detention or imprisonment of a citizen. This is the privilege of writ of Habeas Corpus (Bodenhamer, 1992). The government should formally charge an individual at a short time possible. The government must justify the arrest and detention, and at the same time, be accountable for an individual’s imprisonment. It is a requirement that the government releases the accused immediately if the detention does not meet the basic requirement of the law.
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Secondly, the accused has the right to trial by the jury. Under the adversarial system of the USA, the accused has a right of the determination of innocence or guilt by a panel of juries. Other cases require that filing of formal charges to occur only after the convention of Grand Juries and issuance of an indictment. This right guarantees protection of citizens from zealous judges and prosecutors. At the same time, the accused has a right for impartial juries in the trial. Additionally, the constitution prevents self incrimination. It states that no one should compel an individual in a criminal case to give witness against himself. An accused person cannot testify in a way that will contribute to his conviction of a crime. The accused can claim the right of the Fifth Amendment that offers protection privileges against self incrimination (Bodenhamer, 1992).
The other right of the accused in the Fifth Amendment is the right to protection from double jeopardy. Once a jury declares a defendant not guilty there are no further actions against the defendant. If the defendant challenges the guilty ruling of the jury, the court grants him a new trial, and the first jeopardy cancels out. In addition, the accused has a right to no cruel, excessive, or unusual punishments or fines. This right prohibits any torture to the accused. Imprisonment in unsanitary or inhumane prison conditions is a violation of the rights of the accused. The penalties imposed on the accused should not be physically harmful or excessively painful (Bodenhamer, 1992).
Legal Defenses Used
Some of the legal defenses the defendant uses include the violation of one’s rights during the proceedings. The defendant may claim the due process if there were a denial to public and fair hearing before the jury trial. Apart from the above rights of the accused, the right of the due process of law is extremely fundamental. The guarantee of the due process includes all citizens’ rights in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The courts must not deny the rights of the accused (Gora & Haiman, 1991).
There are two basic purposes of the Due Process. Firstly, it serves to provide for the use of fair procedures by judicial systems in the production of accurate results and avoid wrongful deprivation of one’s interests. Secondly, it serves to provide for a platform where the government listens to the civilians’ other side of the story, and in so doing the people will feel the government has treated them fairly. Fairness is the best word to describe the due process. A person will claim the due process if the federal, state, or local governments do not maintain standards of fair treatment of all American citizens.
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