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Due Process of Law

Due process of law is a constitutional guarantee that prevents governments from impacting citizens in an abusive way. In its modern form, due process includes both procedural standards that courts must uphold in order to protect peoples’ personal liberty and a range of liberty interests that statutes and regulations must not infringe. It traces its origins to Chapter 39 of King John’s Magna Carta, which provides that no freeman will be seized, dispossessed of his property, or harmed except “by the law of the land,” an expression that referred to customary practices of the court. The phrase “due process of law” first appeared as a substitute for Magna Carta’s “the law of the land” in a 1354 statute of King Edward III that restated Magna Carta’s guarantee of the liberty of the subject.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which guarantee that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” incorporated the model of the rule of law that English and American lawyers associated most closely with Magna Carta for centuries. Under this model, strict adherence to regular procedure was the most important safeguard against tyranny. Over time, courts in the United States have ruled that due process also limits legislation and protects certain areas of individual liberty from regulation.
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