What does due process mean to you? Do you see it as an important function of the justice system, or do you think that it simply disrupts the justice system from functioning efficiently? It’s okay to have either opinion, because it is your right to have those opinions and to express them. Having rights is pretty great, isn’t it?
And this is why due process is so important for every American citizen, whether you have a criminal record or a clean slate, or whether you are being accused of a crime or not. Due process says that every person is entitled to their legal rights, and that the state (and, thus, the police) must respect these rights.
Due process means the police have to go about their investigations in an orderly and professional manner. They can’t skip steps or forge work, even if it is the most mundane or trivial of details. They can’t force a suspect to talk; they can’t deny him or her an attorney; and they can’t abuse or neglect anyone. Without due process, the police would just be an all-encompassing force that could arrest or accuse anyone it wants for any crime, regardless of circumstance.
A great example of this in action is a recent case where two young men were arrested on drug crimes. The police found a beer can in one of their cars, they smelled marijuana in the vicinity and eventually they discovered other drugs in their cars.
But all of this was discovered on a tip from another police officer. The tip never said the two young men were doing anything illegal — they were just merely in a parking lot with their cars. When the police officers who received the tip arrived at the parking lot, they immediately approached the two vehicles without having witnessed anything illegal either.
Their search and seizure of the two men and their cars constituted a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, according to a judge, and thus the cases against them are to be dropped.
Source: The News-Gazette, “One drug case dropped; second also will be dismissed,” Mary Schenk, Jan. 22, 2014