Term Paper: Procedural Due Process the Bill of Rights

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Procedural Due Process

The Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution was intended to give Americans certain guarantees of protection against threats to their liberty or property. The protection applies in criminal prosecution to the possibility of being fined, incarcerated or executed and is called Procedural Due Process. The United States Supreme Court (the "Court") interprets the Bill of Rights and in so doing, defines what rights Americans do and do not have under the first ten amendments (and amendment fourteen). This paper examines two landmark decisions of the Court which protect that right to procedural due process. In Gideon v. Wainwright the Court guarantees the right to counsel in all criminal prosecutions in federal or state courts in the United States. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Court guarantees that the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights are made aware to those accused of crimes.

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), that any criminal defendant in the United States was entitled to have an attorney to represent him or her and if they could not afford could have one appointed by the court he was being tried by. The Court essentially clarified and consolidated a source of legal controversy which existed at the time regarding the right under the federal constitution to counsel in state court. The Court overruled its previous ruling in Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455 (1942), which had made this issue a case-by-case determination based on the totality of the facts.

This case arose out of the conviction of Clarence Earl Gideon for felony breaking and entering and sentenced to five years in the Florida State Prison. Gideon, who was indigent, asked the trial judge to appoint a public defender to represent him. The judge declined, stating that he was only allowed under Florida law to appoint counsel to indigent defendants charged with a capital offense. Gideon was required to represent himself and was convicted. He filed his own appeal, first to the Supreme Court of Florida, and when that was unsuccessful to the United States Supreme Court.

Because the Sixth Amendment expressly grants the right to counsel to all criminally accused, the real issue before the Gideon Court was whether this absolute right extends to the state courts via the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court determined that the right to be protected by counsel was fundamental to the safeguards of liberty and justice that it fit within the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This is an extremely important case to our criminal justice system and it has led to several positive effects and several negative ones. The most important positive effect is discussed in the Gideon decision. Because lay people, no matter how smart they are, are not familiar with the technicalities of law, even if they are innocent, they would find difficult or impossible to prove this to a jury. A trained lawyer, however, can easily spot a solid defense and can also rely on his experience in the court room or with a particular judge to client's advantage. Another advantage of having counsel is the ability of a lawyer to properly appeal a case.

Another significant advantage is that it levels the playing field for defendants. It is very easy for the government (meaning the prosecutor and the judge) to railroad an uneducated and unsophisticated defendant. The mere presence of counsel requires government personnel to conduct themselves more squarely within the letter of the law. Thus, this decision has helped ensure that accused criminals in state courts who are indigent have the rights protected just as in federal court.

There are negative effects of this case, as well. Indigent criminal who would normally confess, or plea bargain, now are able to 'lawyer up.' This also tends to lead a dilution of ability among defense lawyers for indigent state defendants, because many public defenders… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Procedural Due Process the Bill of Rights.  (2010, April 23).  Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/procedural-due-process-bill-rights/212901

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