5th amendment

Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure- “It Is What Separates Us From The Rest Of The World”

All of those classes I took in the Keene-Flint building ( aka History Building)  at the University of Florida helped shape my belief about duties and obligations of citizens in the United States. However, this was not the only place where I learned and experienced the study of citizenship. During law school I had a chance to see the theory in practice while interning at the State Attorney Office of the Ninth Judicial Circuit as a certified legal intern. The power that prosecutors posses are potent, but this power is generally exercised with great caution.   The beauty of the United States is found in the different perspective that each citizen holds about our country, the government, the state, and the police.  I would venture to say that an overwhelming majority of the population feels we need a government. However, the real debate is how much government do we need or how much government interference in our personal life is acceptable. The word government is a large word, not in the sense of the letters, but in terms of its meaning. The government has several representatives. Those representatives include the president, congress, judges, prosecutors, police officers, teachers, and anyone else who works for the county, state, or the United States.

The 4th amendment of the United States Constitution states:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The 5th amendment of the United States Constitution states:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in  jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness  against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of  law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The 6th amendment of the United States Constitution states:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been  committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be  informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

These simple words ( 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments) that were written over 200 years ago are not just words; they are the cornerstone of the United States and they separate us from the rest of the world. In the United States, if you are alleged to commit a crime you are innocent until proven guilty by the government ( ie State Attorney, Federal Prosecutor). When you are charged with an alleged crime you do not have to defend the actions alone. You are afforded a Public Defender if the charges are serious enough, or if you can afford it you can hire private counsel.  Not only are you afforded an individual who has spent years of training in the law, but it is the government’s responsibility to prove elements of a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you ever have the luxury of traveling outside the United States you quickly realize the rights we enjoy in the United States are unique and precious. We are fortunate to have a history and a legal system that gives us certain guaranteed rights. Every aspect of our legal system, from police officers all the way to the Supreme Court, has talented individuals who try their very best to uphold the United States Constitution and continue to make the United States a peaceful and respectable country.

Practicing criminal law is a part of who I am. My background in United States and World History, and as a teacher for several years on the subject, has had a tremendous impact on how I see the world. As a classroom teacher I had several students through the years that made a mistake and we learned from their mistake. The most important thing I tried to instill in my students was that EVERONE has made or will make a mistake, but we MUST learn from our mistakes. Sometimes students were wrongly accused of actions they did not commit and not everything we hear or see may give us a full picture of those actions.  I realize not just in a theoretical sense, but also in a practical sense, the laws and the system we have in the United States is unparalleled.  A mistake in the United States will generally not tarnish or ruin your life forever but it should be used as a learning experience. This is why I practice Criminal Law.