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What Does It Mean to Say That a Criminal Defendant’s “Due Process Rights” Have Been Violated?


When it comes to criminal trials and appeals, sometimes criminal defense attorneys will find that a due process violation (and/or other trial misconduct) occurred. On February 12th, CNN featured an important piece discussing what due process is and is not in terms of criminal defendants and their rights. Below, we discuss this in more detail.

Due process—a core element of our criminal justice system—is set forth in the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It is the legal procedural safeguard that you as a citizen have from the government (not the news media, not your employer, etc.) depriving you of “life, liberty, or property.”  But what does this mean, exactly?

Due Process Issues In Bill Cosby’s Trial

Due process does not mean that someone’s rights have been violated if they have been ostracized in the media or they have lost their jobs. To understand how due process rights work, it can be helpful to examine it through the lens of a case that received a lot of coverage. Take, for example, the trial against Bill Cosby.

Cosby was prosecuted for aggravated indecent assault, and the prosecutors in the case tried to introduce testimony from 13 other women (in addition to the main victim who had recently accused Cosby of assault) who also accused Cosby of similar acts of sexual assault.

However, only the one woman’s case was actually eligible when it came to prosecuting Cosby and introducing evidence because of due process violations associated with the statute of limitations. The testimony of all of these women (except one) involved alleged crimes occurring a long time ago—way outside the statute of limitations—and thus constituted inherently unreliable evidence (i.e. a due process violation). To allow evidence from all of these women to be introduced would have violated Cosby’s due process rights; those rights that are put in place to protect the accused and ensure that any and all convictions are based on reliable evidence (where ‘reliable’ effectively correlates with ‘somewhat recent,’ i.e. occurred within a specific timeframe). Ultimately, jurors could not come to a unanimous decision in the charges against Cosby, and the judge declared a mistrial.

Other individuals who have been accused of criminal sexual misconduct but have evaded prosecution or conviction based on due process concerns include Woody Allen, James Levine, Roy Moore, and Harvey Weinstein. In addition, the current movement to extend statutes of limitations like these will also likely implicate due process concerns.

Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers Ready to Help

At the Baez Law Firm, we have extensive experience assisting criminal defendants in proving that a due process violation occurred. Contact us today to find out if you have been the victim of such a violation—we serve clients throughout Florida and Massachusetts.


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