A term you may have heard before is due process, but what does it mean for those charged with DWI in Texas? Due process is one of the most important aspects of our legal system, particularly when it applies to those charged with a crime like DWI.
Due process is one of those terms that can have several different meanings. But in the context of being charged with a crime, the suspect is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution that his or her life, liberty, or property will not be taken without the due process of law. In essence, this means that the state government may not put a person in jail, charge a fine, or take away liberty without following established laws justifying those actions.
It is important to remember when and where this guarantee comes from. At the time the Constitution was established, America had just fought a revolutionary war with one of the most powerful governments in the world, Britain. And this government was headed by a monarch, who largely ruled by fiat. If the king wanted your land, life, or liberty, he could generally take it for whatever reason he gave. There may have been some procedural hurdles for doing so, but the king had power over his subjects.
Enter the American revolution and the grievances they had against their king. The Constitution and Bill of Rights reflect those grievances and sought to grant rights generally denied by the king’s government. One of the most important of these was due process of law.
A Nation of Laws
When someone is charged with a crime, there are steps the government must take for any charge to be valid and for any conviction to stick. In the first instance, the interaction of the state with the suspect must be reasonable. This means that the police must act reasonably, given the circumstances, or whatever evidence they turn up could be suppressed.
In addition to acting reasonably, the state is required to get a warrant for an arrest, or have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. In the context of a DWI, this means that the police must observe some behavior or have facts to show that the suspect was under the influence of alcohol before making an arrest. Then, the state is required to make charges so that the suspect has a chance to defend them.
These are just a few of the important due process rights that are involved in a criminal case. There are certainly others, like the right to have a judge review a case to ensure the police and state do have probable cause to charge the suspect with a crime, the right to an attorney, and to have a trial in front of a jury. In every DWI case that is filed, the state is required to ensure that all of the due process rights involved are followed.
These due process rights are essential and should never be taken lightly. Protecting them ensures that the state does not act arbitrarily, and helps protect us from state overreach. If you are charged with DWI, contact us. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we will ensure that your due process rights are protected, and will help you understand what your best options are.