‘Due process’ is a general term which refers to the practice of punishing criminals only after they are convicted by a judge and/or jury in a criminal trial, which includes evidence and testimony by both sides.
As I have recently learned from conservative political experts who are much more intelligent and experienced than myself, the concept of ‘due process’ is not absolute. Government employees such as police officers deserve due process when they commit a crime, but regular citizens like you and me do not. This is a complicated topic, and I am obviously no lawyer or legal expert.
Here is how I used to think that ‘Due Process’ functioned: A police officer arrests a suspect and hands them over to the government prosecutor/DA. The prosecutor then makes the case against the suspect in a court, where a judge, jury, defense attorney, witnesses, and evidence are present. If the jury finds the suspect guilty, he is now officially a criminal, and the judge sentences him to a punishment that is within legal guidelines for the crime he was convicted of.
Boy, was I wrong.
Full due process does not apply to citizens in times of war, states of emergency, or when police officers are in the course of conducting their regular duties, among other situations. Due to some federal laws, suspected terrorists and those who are suspected of being involved in crimes or potential crimes also are not given full due process. When a person is involved in a self-defense incident, police officers arrest them and take their firearms away indefinitely, just in case. Many conservatives, including Trump and Pence, also believe that non-government civilians should have their firearms taken by cops as soon as anyone reports them to authorities. Why wait for a crime to occur when cops can “take the guns first and worry about due process later”?
However, when police officers and government officials do something wrong, they are not punished until due process occurs.
When a person commits a crime, a law enforcement officer who works for the town, city, county, state, or federal government responds. They arrest the person and do a quick investigation to determine presumptive guilt. They then administer whichever punishment they see fit for the criminal, depending on a multitude of factors (type of crime, danger of the criminal, etc.). Afterwards, the cop brings the criminal to a jail cell and books him. The person is eventually handed over to the prosecuting attorney for the city, county, state, or federal government. The prosecutor and/or a grand jury determines which formal charges to bring forth against the criminal. In court, the prosecution tries to convince a criminal jury that the criminal is guilty. If the jury agrees, they convict him, and the judge hands down a sentence. Then, the criminal is punished for the second time. What a great system!
When a government agent commits a crime, on the other hand, we must give them the benefit of the doubt and ‘true due process’, I’ve learned. Nobody shall punish or even verbally condemn any government agent until after they are convicted in court. And citizens cannot punish any police officer or ever cause harm to one, of course. If a police officer does something that you feel is wrong, it’s very easy to file a report against police. Once you do, the department will investigate the incident and possibly charge the cop with a crime. If they do bring charges, the prosecutor will bring the case to trial. If convicted by a jury in court, only then could a cop be punished. Additionally, it is wonderful that our police officers have an extra layer of legal protection called ‘qualified immunity’. This court doctrine essentially says that cops can only be punished if they violated ‘clearly established law’, meaning that unless their specific action was explicitly unconstitutional and known to be illegal to the cop, they are innocent. Giving them this full due process protection is the least we can do to support our brave boys in blue! If we don’t trust police officers to punish those they believe are up to no good, we might as well abolish police departments!
If we treated government officials with the same ‘equal justice’ as we civilians have, wonderful leaders like Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and so many others would be in prison right now. If not for this double standard, thousands of cops might be in prison now for the mild infraction of rape or homicide. I, for one, am glad that government officials enjoy massive immunity and due process before being punished!