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When the Constitution was written there were some "rights" which the writers probably believed to be natural to everyone. However, it later became necessary to determine an individual's right and place them into law because citizens wanted to ensure their "rights" were protected and the government would not have the power to invade their rights. The Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments to the Constitution) was written to do just that. As written, the Bill of Rights applied only to the Federal Government it did not apply to the States. Much of the Bill of Rights applies to the rights of people accused of crime. Accused citizens have the right to due process of law, a fair trial, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom from "double jeopardy", or in other words being held in jeopardy twice for the same crime. To ensure state governments would not invade the rights of citizens, the Fourteenth Amendment was incorporated. Thus the Constitution guarantees that everyone has freedoms and rights which are protected.

In the following pages issues will be discussed on "due process" and the affects on accused people. Also three (3) landmark Supreme Court cases that deal with our rights shall be examined.


1. Civil rights are enforceable rights or privileges given to individuals. If these are interfered with by another, it gives rise to an action for injury. "Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, assembly, the right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude, and the right to equality in public places."1

The Bill of Rights was created as a foundation of our civil rights. Laws guaranteeing civil rights may be written, derived from custom or implied. In the United States most civil rights are written. These rights are relative rather than absolute because they depend on the interpretation of these "rights". It is the position of the Courts to play a crucial role in interpreting the extent of civil rights.

2. Due Process Clauses of the Constitution. Nearly two-thirds of the Bill of Rights is devoted to the rights of people suspected or accused of crime. The rights include one's right to due process of law, fair trial, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, freedom from being tried twice for the same crime (or double jeopardy) and freedom from self-incrimination. The accused has the right to representation (an attorney) and if they cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for them. We have the right to an impartial jury (free from pre-disposed ideas) and the right to be heard in one's own defense. Laws are written so the average reasonable person can understand what criminal behavior is. Due process is mentioned in both the 5th and the 14th amendments to the Constitution. The 5th amendment was intended to apply to the Federal government and the 14th was intended to be binding for the States.

3. Due process means that members of the government must use fair methods and procedures when enforcing the law and making decisions. This places limitations on laws and legal proceedings in order to guarantee fairness, justice and liberty. Established laws are: If a person is accused of a crime they have the right to a lawyer or the right to defend themselves. If necessary, and if they cannot afford to pay a lawyer, representation can be appointed by the Court to defend them. Defendants cannot be convicted of crimes on the basis of confessions obtained, for example, by coercion. A person cannot be discriminated against on the basis of race or sex.

4. "Civil liberties deals primarily with those constitutional amendments that give Americans the right to freedom of religion, speech, to peaceably assemble, to carry arms, to be free of discrimination, and the rights to be free of search or seizures without probable cause."3

These are rights given to individuals through the first amendment to the Constitution, laws or freedom to speak, think, assemble, organize, worship, or petition without interference or restraints, and the right to privacy.

5. Some Supreme Court rulings that ruled on due process are:

A. June 13, 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the "Prisoner's Due Process Protections"

"The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling today that the extreme deprivation and punishment found in "supermax" prisons warrant protections for prisoners' due process rights, but the group expressed disappointment that more extensive protections were rejected.

"Prisoners confined in supermax facilities endure 23- or 24-hour isolation, limited access to rehabilitative programming, and few opportunities for visits with family," said Jeff Gamso, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio, which was co-counsel in the case decided today. "The Supreme Court recognizes the unique severity of supermax conditions and so will require officials to uphold basic due process protections for prisoners." 5

B. March 9, 2005 - In Town of Castle Rock, Colorado v. Gonzales, No. 04-728, the high court considered whether a civil rights remedy is available to domestic violence victims whose pleas to enforce protection orders go unheeded by local police departments.

A quote from ยง1983 scholar Sheldon Nahmod of Chicago-Kent College of Law, is "... what's at stake here is one's vision of the Constitution in general and of the due process clause specifically,"6.

C. "New York, NY, June 28, 2004 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) ...welcomed the Supreme Court's decisions that detainees of the U.S. government have the right to due process. Winning the war on terror requires the full engagement of all three branches of the federal government in order to develop a strong and constitutional response to the unprecedented threats the country has faced since the terrible events of September 11, 2001. ADL believes that the Court's decision will facilitate efforts to address these threats by providing a clear legal framework for the other branches to work within." 7

D. "Tuesday, June 13, 2000 A little-noticed Supreme Court decision last week has major implications for the Waco [Waco Texas Branch Davidian] case. Reversing a district court ruling, the unanimous decision declared it unconstitutional for a judge to include new evidence during sentencing."8

Particular examples of cases filed under the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution are listed



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