The criminal justice system protects society from dangerous or untrustworthy citizens, but it also needs to protect the individuals accused of crimes. The protections mean prosecutors must find people guilty rather than force the accused to prove their innocence. Other protections come from the fifth amendment to the Constitution.
Review of Charges
The first sentence in the amendment expresses that everyone has the right to present their case in front of a Grand Jury. A jury of unbiased individuals enables all involved to have the opportunity to receive a decision for or against indictment based on facts. It guarantees that trials only continue when there is enough proof to suggest a crime took place and the defendant may have played a role.
Prevention of Harassment
Overzealous court systems or prosecutors with a personal grudge could make life unbearable for their perceived enemies. The Fifth Amendment prevents the courts from charging someone more than once for the same crime. A not-guilty verdict means the person remains free even if the prosecution later finds more evidence or the individual confesses their guilt after the decision. However, the protection only applies to the same charges for the crime. Someone found not guilty of murder or assault, for example, may still face charges in civil court for the event.
Police officers or other officials cannot force people to make statements that would suggest guilt. Miranda Rights allow people to stay silent during questioning. It forbids using comments made by the individual if they did not receive instructions about their rights before questioning. Miranda Rights do not make anyone invincible. Any statements made after the warning or before the person was in police custody are valid in court.
Protection of Rights
The right to a fair trial and legal representation falls under due process protection. Due process ensures everyone understands the evidence and has access to that information to defend themselves in court.
Protection of Property
The Fifth Amendment forces the government to pay fair market value for any private property they take. The government can take the property if needed for public use, even against the wishes of the owner, but they must pay the owner to do so.
An understanding of the Fifth Amendment protects everyone involved in a legal dispute. The protections generally apply to federal charges, but most states have similar protections in place. Other amendments, like the 14th, ensure that state governments follow the guidelines of the Fifth Amendment.