due process | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction

Due process is the constitutional guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial.

In civil law, the legal rights of someone who confronts an adverse action threatening liberty or property.

Due process is a fundamental principle of the American legal system that ensures the protection of the rights of the accused in criminal proceedings. The concept of due process is rooted in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, which provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The guarantee of due process means that every defendant has the right to a fair and impartial trial and cannot be convicted or punished without adequate procedural protections.

The due process clause of the Constitution requires that criminal defendants be provided with a range of procedural protections, including notice of the charges against them, the right to counsel, the right to confront witnesses, and the right to a trial by an impartial jury. These protections are designed to ensure that defendants are not unfairly or arbitrarily subjected to criminal sanctions and are given a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves against the charges.

One of the central features of due process is the requirement that criminal proceedings be conducted in an impartial and fair manner. This means that judges, juries, and other decision-makers must be unbiased and must base their decisions on the facts and the law rather than personal biases or other improper factors. For example, a judge who has a personal or financial interest in the outcome of a case may be considered biased and may be required to recuse themselves from the proceedings.

The due process guarantee also requires that criminal defendants be provided with adequate notice of the charges against them and the opportunity to prepare a defense. This includes the right to access evidence that will be used against them, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to present evidence and testimony on their own behalf. In addition, defendants have the right to be represented by an attorney and cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves.

The constitutional guarantee of due process applies to all stages of the criminal justice process, from the investigation and arrest of a suspect to the trial and sentencing. It also applies to all levels of government, including federal, state, and local authorities. The Supreme Court has held that the due process clause provides a minimum level of protection that all criminal defendants are entitled to, regardless of the severity of the charges or the nature of the offense.


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Last Modified: 03/30/2023


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