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What is Basic Due Process for Criminal Cases in New Mexico?


due processHow would you feel if you could be arrested at any time for no reason, have your property confiscated without being compensated, or be sentenced to death without being given a trial?

These are the questions that concerned the authors of our Constitution; thanks to our right to due process, which has been established as one of our most important civil rights, we don’t  have to worry about these injustices.

In short, due process means that all criminal defendants must be treated fairly by the legal system and that the state cannot arrest you unless you have a broken a written law. It also goes much further than that.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that, “No person… shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” This means that you cannot be sentenced to death, incarcerated or have your property taken from you without due process.

The Fifth Amendment was intended to apply only to the actions of the Federal Government; however, due process rights were later extended to those accused of violating state law via the Fourteenth Amendment, that says, “No State shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This is very important to the rights of criminal defendants, since most criminal cases are brought by state governments.

Due process relates to any type of legal action, but it is most often referred to in criminal procedures, because only the government brings criminal charges that can deprive you of life, liberty and property. Due process in terms of criminal law relates to the steps that the state must follow before it takes away your freedom or property.

What Does Due Process Entail?

In terms of due process, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, along with the Sixth Amendment, guarantee you the basic rights to:

  1. Know what crime you are charged with, and
  2. Defend yourself before the state can take your life, property or freedom.

Specifically, they grant you the following due process rights:

  • The right to a grand jury
  • The right to an attorney
  • The right to a trial by jury
  • The right to know what you are charged with
  • The right to cross-examination of those who testify against you
  • The right to a speedy and public trial
  • The prohibition against double jeopardy
  • Protection against self-incrimination

For example, you cannot be sentenced to prison simply because you are suspected of having committed a crime. Before you are sentenced to prison, you must be given a fair trial, in front of a jury of fellow citizens, where you can state your case and cross-examine those who testify against you.

At its most basic level, due process means that the state must provide criminal defendants with a fair trial. Above and beyond that, criminal defendants must be treated fairly in all state criminal proceedings. Due process is your most important protection against being mistreated by the state. Any violation of your right to due process is serious and may entitle you to damages.

Albuquerque Criminal Defense Attorney

The attorneys of the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices in Albuquerque are here to protect your rights throughout the criminal process. For the best outcome in your criminal case, contact our lawyers immediately when you’ve been accused of a crime. Don’t speak to anyone until you contact us online or by calling (505) 375-4664.