Due process is the “fundamental principle of fairness in all legal matters, both civil and criminal, especially in the courts.” Moreover, due process ensures that anyone facing legal action has the right to counsel, the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself, and the right to be tried by a jury of your peers.
Additionally, due process ensures that defendants are given the following rights:
- A speedy and public trial
- An impartial jury
- The notice and explanation of all charges brought against them
- The ability to both confront and cross-examine witnesses who are against the dependent
- The ability to have the court mandate that favorable witnesses speak to the court
Due process is so enshrined in our American way of life that it’s the only command that is spelled out in our constitution twice—no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This freedom is covered by both the Fifth Amendment (federally) and the Fourteenth Amendment (states).
Even with how important the concept of due process is to our nation, there are still numerous ways that defendants can be stripped of their rights. When defendants are deprived of their right to due process, they then have the right to challenge the prosecution. If it’s determined that the defendant is correct, the charges against them could be thrown out.
In fact, actor and comedian Bill Cosby was released by the Pennsylvania state prison after serving only 3 years of his 10-year sexual assault sentence after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court deemed that his due process rights were violated.
After being accused of a 2004 sexual assault, in exchange for not being prosecuted, Cosby gave a deposition in a civil trial. The problem was, Cosby was forced to give his statement under the penalty of perjury and not afforded his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself. During this deposition, Cosby admitted to acquiring Quaaludes to drug his potential sexual partners.
Although Cosby had an agreement with another district attorney, his successor decided to prosecute anyway and used the deposition Cosby gave in his civil case during his criminal trial. This action violated Cosby’s due process rights when he was convicted in 2018.
Regardless of the crime—even one as severe as Cosby’s sexual assault—every American has the right to be assumed innocent until they are proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of their peers. While some people were angry by the Pennsylvania Supreme’s decision to free Cosby after being found guilty, we can’t forget that every American deserves due process protection.
If you’ve been accused of a crime and feel that your due process rights have been violated, it’s essential that you speak with a criminal defense attorney to ensure you maintain your rights. Even if you are guilty of a crime, you still have rights that should never be infringed upon.