An Important Right
Your right to due process is protected under the U.S. Constitution. This is an important right to understand because it protects you on all levels of government, including the state government in California. This right ensures that without fair judicial proceedings, you cannot be convicted of a crime.
The government, both at the state and federal levels, receives a lot of criticism from the public. In some respects, the government intervenes in our lives too much. In others, it doesn't intervene enough. The government is not an exact science, nor is it a perfected system. But one aspect of government works and works wells: due process.
So, what is due process? And how does it protect us? Some people feel they are unfairly arrested and convicted and claim due process is a myth. Others have different experiences with it. The key to understanding just what due process is and how it benefits us is to take a look at what due process means on a practical level.
A Fair and Just Process
The term due process refers to the legal procedure that we have a right to when facing adverse action from the government. When you hear the phrase “innocent until proven guilty,” it is the process of being proven guilty that's your right. In that respect, due process doesn't guarantee a fair outcome; it just enforces your right to a certain procedure. If the court follows that procedure, your right to due process is protected. But, again, that doesn't necessarily ensure a fair and just outcome, as evidenced by the many Californians who have been convicted of crimes they didn't commit every year.
Due process in criminal proceedings pertains to the judicial procedure with which your case will be handled. For example, you cannot be convicted until the prosecuting attorney proves you are guilty. What constitutes “proof” is an entirely different subject that deserves its own article. Under California's criminal justice system, all criminal cases follow a certain procedural outline.
Aside from the perpetration or alleged perpetration of a crime, the arrest commences a criminal procedure. If a complaint is filed, the person arrested will be prosecuted, which can play out in many ways. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, the job of the prosecution is done. When you admit to committing a crime, the prosecution doesn't have to prove anything. Remember this if you ever find yourself facing criminal charges. Never plead guilty or no contest without first speaking with an attorney.
Assuming the defendant doesn't admit to the crime and accept the punishment, the prosecution will need to prove the defendant is guilty of committing the crime. Your right to due process comes in handy here. The prosecution must prove certain elements of the crime by meeting the burden of proof. This is the obligation the prosecution has to produce evidence sufficient to establish guilt.
Now, the burden of proof can vary according to the type of case. For example, the burden of proof may be different for a civil case. Typically, the burden of proof in criminal cases is beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning there is no reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty. In criminal trials, it is typically a jury making the decision. If the jury has reasonable doubt, then the burden of proof isn't met.
To better under the procedural process that must be followed to protect your right to due process, speak with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. Your right to due process is protected at every governmental level and every stage in your criminal case. The fact of the matter is due process refers only to a procedure.
Guilty people are found not guilty and innocent people are found guilty every day because the system is not perfect. The procedure, however, ensures the highest possible level of fairness given variables such as the way a jury interprets evidence.
Along those same lines, it's important to consult with an attorney before you plead guilty or decide to go to trial. An attorney can advise you on your chance of a favorable outcome at trial and help you make educated decisions about how to fight your charges. By understanding the system from this perspective, you have a better chance of taking advantage of weaknesses and avoiding injustices.
Facing criminal charges is stressful, but attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team can help. Experienced in criminal defense and criminal trials, our Visalia area legal team can advocate on your behalf in court and aggressively fight your charges. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense working in Tulare, Fresno, and Kings County and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.