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3.8 Amendments: Due Process and the Rights of the Accused

7 min readfebruary 7, 2023

Annika Tekumulla

Annika Tekumulla

Riya Patel

Riya Patel


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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What is the Due Process Clause?

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides a constitutional basis for the protection of individual rights against government intrusion. It requires the government to follow fair and just procedures when it takes away a person's life, liberty, or property. The courts use various tests and standards, such as the "clear and present danger" test, to strike a balance between the state's power to regulate and the individual's rights and liberties. The purpose of the Due Process Clause is to ensure that the government does not act arbitrarily or unjustly, and that individual rights are protected against government infringement. The clause also extends to the protection of rights of the accused, such as the right to counsel and the right to a speedy trial. The Supreme Court has established the principle that every defendant is entitled to legal counsel in criminal cases and the right to have a trial within a reasonable amount of time. The court has also established Miranda rights, which require law enforcement officers to inform individuals of their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney before questioning them. There are exceptions to these rights, such as the objective good faith exception, the inevitable discovery rule, and the idea of exigent circumstances.

Key Terms

  • Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which include the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments, which address Due Process and the rights of the accused.
  • Due Process Clause: A clause in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that prohibits the government from depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
  • Fourth Amendment: The amendment to the U.S. Constitution that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires a warrant for searches and seizures to be reasonable.
  • Fifth Amendment: The amendment to the U.S. Constitution that provides various protections to criminal defendants, including the right against self-incrimination, the right to due process of law, and the right to a fair and impartial trial.
  • Sixth Amendment: The amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees criminal defendants the right to an attorney and the right to a speedy trial.
  • Exclusionary Rule: A legal doctrine that bars the use of illegally obtained evidence in court.
  • Miranda Rights: A warning read by law enforcement to criminal suspects informing them of their rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
  • Warrant: A court order that authorizes a search or seizure by law enforcement.
  • Speedy Trial: A constitutional guarantee that a defendant's trial will take place in a timely manner, without unreasonable delay.
  • Self-Incrimination: The act of incriminating oneself through statements or admissions of guilt.
  • Double Jeopardy: The protection against being tried or punished twice for the same crime.
  • Pro se representation: Representing oneself in a legal case without the assistance of an attorney
  • Habeas corpus: A legal writ that requires a person who is being detained to be brought before a court or judge.
  • Jury nullification: The act of a jury acquitting a defendant despite evidence of guilt, as a way of protesting against a law or government action.
  • Pretrial detention: The detention of a criminal defendant before trial, often due to concerns about flight risk or public safety.

Miranda Rights

Another example of due process is the establishment of Miranda Rights. These rights were established in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) when Ernesto Miranda was arrested for kidnapping and rape and confessed to his crimes. However, his attorney appealed on the grounds of self-incrimination.
Using the 14th amendment as justification, the Supreme Court ruled that the police had deprived Ernesto Miranda of his right to due process by not informing him of his right to remain silent.
Now, these rights are infamously called Miranda Rights. 

Fourteenth and Sixth Amendment

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment also ensures that individuals have access to legal representation, as expressed in the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of the right to counsel. This right applies to criminal defendants and ensures that they have access to an attorney to defend themselves against the charges brought against them. This right helps to ensure that the government does not unfairly target or prosecute individuals, and that individuals are given a fair and impartial trial. Additionally, the right to counsel also helps to protect the integrity of the justice system and ensures that the truth is discovered and justice is served.

Right to an Attorney

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) established the principle that every criminal defendant is entitled to legal counsel, even if they cannot afford an attorney. The Court held that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of the right to counsel applies to state as well as federal criminal trials, and that the states are required to appoint counsel for indigent defendants who cannot afford to retain an attorney. This decision has had a significant impact on the criminal justice system and has helped to ensure that all defendants have access to legal representation, regardless of their financial circumstances.
The Supreme Court has held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not require states to appoint counsel in civil cases. In other words, while the right to counsel applies to criminal trials, it does not apply to civil proceedings. This means that litigants in civil cases may have to represent themselves or hire an attorney if they can afford one. However, in some circumstances, the Court has recognized a limited right to counsel in certain civil cases, such as cases involving critical personal rights or those that present complex legal issues.

Right to a Speedy Trial

The Supreme Court has not established a specific time limit of 100 days from arrest to trial as a hard-and-fast rule. Instead, the right to a speedy trial is a more flexible standard that depends on the specific circumstances of each case. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the right to a speedy trial is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and applies to both federal and state criminal trials.
The Court has developed a four-part test to determine whether an individual's right to a speedy trial has been violated, which takes into account the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant's assertion of the right, and the prejudice caused by the delay. This test provides a balancing approach that takes into account the interests of both the government and the defendant.
It is true that both prosecutors and defendants can request extensions in certain cases, and courts may grant these requests if there is good cause for doing so. However, if a defendant's right to a speedy trial is violated, the Court may take steps to remedy the violation, such as dismissing the charges or excluding certain evidence from trial.
Overall, the right to a speedy trial is an important aspect of the criminal justice system, and helps to ensure that individuals are not subjected to unreasonable delays or denied a fair and impartial trial.

Exceptions to the Fourteenth

There are several exceptions to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement and the exclusionary rule, which bars the use of illegally obtained evidence in court.
The objective good faith exception is one such exception. This exception allows evidence to be admitted in court even if the police officer who obtained it acted in violation of the Fourth Amendment, as long as the officer acted in objective good faith and reasonably believed that their conduct was lawful.
The inevitable discovery rule is another exception, which states that evidence that would have been discovered legally even if it was obtained illegally is admissible in court. This exception recognizes that even if the police acted in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the evidence would have been discovered anyway, and therefore should not be excluded from court.
The concept of exigent circumstances is also an exception to the warrant requirement, which allows law enforcement to enter a residence or search a property without a warrant if there are circumstances that create an immediate and pressing need to do so, such as when there is reason to believe that evidence will disappear or be destroyed.
These exceptions are designed to balance the interests of the state in ensuring public safety and the protection of evidence, with the individual's right to privacy and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, these exceptions are subject to judicial interpretation and are not always clear-cut, which can lead to complex and nuanced legal disputes.
🎥 Watch: AP GOPO - Rights of the Accused

Summary

The Amendments related to Due Process and the Rights of the Accused ensure that individuals are protected from government overreach and abuse of power. The 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause and the 6th Amendment's Right to an Attorney are key to this protection. The Supreme Court has established several important rulings related to these Amendments, including the requirement for Miranda warnings, the right to a speedy trial, and the right to legal counsel for those who cannot afford it. The concept of substantive due process is also important, as it prohibits the government from infringing upon an individual's fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy. However, there are exceptions to these rights, such as the objective good faith exception, the inevitable discovery rule, and the exigent circumstances exception. These Amendments and the accompanying court rulings help to ensure that individuals are treated fairly and with dignity within the criminal justice system.

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