Mar 6, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

You hear the term thrown around a lot, but what does it mean, really?

Innocent until proven guilty, right? Kind of.

In theory, that's how the justice system works and that process of innocent until proven guilty has a name. It's "due process." It's an obligation of the government.

In legal arenas, the term refers to the legal process one follows to prove guilt. It also refers to the existential questions of innocence and guilt and what they mean.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution stipulates that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

Due process is the legal process we follow to determine whether,  given the allegations, the person against whom the allegations have been made can be trusted.

In practice, it's long, formal, and complicated.

According to an article on,  Andrea Curcio, a law professor at Georgia State University, due process has two prongs. She explains that "the government cannot charge you with a crime or take other action against you without notifying you of the charges or proposed action" and that  "you must be given the opportunity to present your side of the story to a neutral fact-finder before action is taken."

Due process has no bearing on the court of public opinion or to private employers. 

Private citizens do not owe "due process" to each other. Due process is an obligation of the government to private citizens when their life, liberty, or property are at risk.

Learn more about law studies.



Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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