Can the State Take Away Your Life, Liberty or Property?

Before life, liberty or property can be taken away by the state, an individual has to be afforded the protection of due process of law. The Fifth and 14th Amendments safeguard fair legal process prior to any taking, according to Cornell University Law School.

Due process consists of providing a defendant in a criminal or civil case with appropriate notice of the proceeding, and an opportunity, prior to any taking of life, liberty or property, to be heard, contest and provide evidence in the case. A defendant is entitled to be represented by counsel, to an impartial tribunal and the right to written findings of fact and reasons for its decision, according to Cornell University.

Depending on the seriousness of the potential taking, there may be additional safeguards, such as the right against self incrimination, against double jeopardy and the right to an appeal. Moreover, besides these due process protections, known as procedural due process, there is substantive due process of law. Substantive due process concerns itself with an inquiry into the case and its adjudication, with respect to fundamental rights deeply rooted in American history and traditions, such as the right to privacy, or the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, according to Cornell University Law School.