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More Rights Afforded to Alleged Criminals and Why That’s Important

More Rights Afforded to Alleged Criminals and Why That’s Important

I started with the 4th Amendment earlier this week.  There is another important amendment that guarantees rights in cases where one stands accused of a crime.

The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights relevant to both criminal and civil legal proceedings.  In criminal cases, the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury, forbids “double jeopardy,” and protects against self-incrimination.  It also requires that “due process of law” be part of any proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property” and requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use.

The clauses incorporated within the Fifth Amendment outline basic constitutional limits on police procedure. The Framers derived the Grand Juries Clause and the Due Process Clause from the Magna Carta, dating back to 1215. Scholars consider the Fifth Amendment as capable of breaking down into the following five distinct constitutional rights: 1) right to indictment by the grand jury before any criminal charges for felonious crimes, 2) a prohibition on double jeopardy, 3) a right against forced self-incrimination, 4) a guarantee that all criminal defendants have a fair trial, and 5) a guarantee that government cannot seize private property without making a due compensation at the market value of the property.

While the Fifth Amendment originally only applied to federal courts, the U.S. Supreme Court has partially incorporated the 5th amendment to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The right to indictment by the Grand Jury has not been incorporated, while the right against double jeopardy, the right against self-incrimination, and the protection against arbitrary taking of a private property without due compensation have all been incorporated to the states.

There is good reason the Founding Fathers spent much of their constitutional efforts in delineating the rights of those who face criminal charges for those are the ones whose liberty is in jeopardy and that essentially is a threat to our democratic way of life.


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