What is my Right to Due Process?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The right to due process is a right of a nation's citizens to enjoy equal and fair treatment in legal matters. Many nations have regulations concerning this legal right on their books, although the strength and applicability of regulations may vary, depending on the nation and its legal philosophy. This concept has its origins in English common law and is famously enshrined in the Bill of Rights attached to the Constitution of the United States. People preparing for travel may want to familiarize themselves with their legal rights in foreign countries to make sure they know what to expect.

Woman posing
Woman posing

There are two different aspects to the right to due process. One is procedural, the network of laws, regulations, and formulas for handling legal matters. A legal system must have clearly outlined steps to follow when handling cases in court, dealing with arrests, and in other situations. If these steps are not complete, it can create situations for abuses, such as police detaining suspects indefinitely and not providing them with equal treatment.

Substantive due process has to do with the reasoning behind certain laws. Governments that value the right to due process cannot pass laws with a discriminatory effect, such as a law banning people of a particular race from owning property. In these nations, people can challenge laws in court if they suspect a violation of civil rights. The court will review the matter and can decide to strike the legislation down on the basis of concerns about fairness.

In nations where the right to due process is protected, citizens may be accustomed to equal and fair treatment in the legal system. This treatment must be provided to everyone, regardless of race, origin, creed, gender, and so forth. People who experience a violation of their legal rights can sue and may recover damages, ranging from reversal of a verdict in an unfair case to punitive financial damages the government must pay to compensate the person for the discrimination. Civil rights attorneys are usually responsible for filing and supervising such cases.

In some countries, the right to due process may be extended to visitors by treaty, but may not be available to the citizens. Others treat visitors and citizens exactly alike. Travelers should be aware that while their embassies can provide some assistance, interfering in another nation's legal system is a violation of diplomatic protocol and international law, and thus, a person experiencing legal problems must abide by the system used in that nation, even if it is unfair.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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