Why is due process important to individual rights?
If we did not have a guarantee of due process in the Constitution, the rights that are specified in the Bill of Rights and elsewhere would be fairly meaningless. Without due process, it would be too easy for the government to take away our rights even though those rights are specifically guaranteed by the Constitution.
The idea of due process is the idea that the government has to go through a series of legal procedures before it can take away our “life, liberty, or property.” In other words, the government has to act in a legal way, not just in an arbitrary way. It has to do things like put us on trial and convict us of crimes before it can take away our life (execut us), our liberty (put us in jail), or our property (fine us or confiscate our property).
If the government did not have to follow due process, it could simply take away our rights at any time. The government could put us in jail without trial for something like speaking out against its policies. The Bill of Rights could still say that the government couldn’t do things like infringe on our freedom of speech or religion, but the government could do it anyway through arbitrary, extralegal actions.
Thus, the guarantee of due process is a very important factor in ensuring that we actually have individual rights that are promised to us.
In the Constitution of the United States of America, the Fifth Amendment says that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, uses the same words in the Due Process Clause to describe a legal obligation of all states.
The Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States both use the phrase "due process." In the Fifth Amendment, each and every citizen of the United States is guaranteed that he/she will not be "deprived of life, liberty, or property" without the proper legal process and without the protection of his/her personal liberties.
The Judicial Protection of Individual Rights in the United States includes the assurance of such protections as the following:
- habeas corpus (protection against unlawful detention or imprisonment)
- presumption of innocence
- impartial tribunal
- swift and public trial
- right to counsel
- right to a trial by jury
- right against self-incrimination
- protection against double jeopardy (a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime)
- right of appeal