What is Criminal Procedure?

Criminal procedure is an ever-changing area of law. While the technical underpinnings are as old as the Constitution itself, The Supreme Court comes out with decisions that change criminal procedure often. Most of the time, these changes come from the evolving precedent of the fourth, fifth and, sixth amendment. Due primarily to the complexity of these Constitutional amendments, there’s been an evolving number of rules to learn and the subject matter can be quite difficult to master.

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The Limits of Police Investigations

Perhaps the largest part of criminal procedure deals with investigations by the police. This leads us to deal with the police related procedures such as searches, arrests, individual rights, confessions, etc. The focus of the procedural underpinnings of investigations is a core part of the work of a Constitutional lawyer. The limits on the power of law enforcement deals with the parts of the Constitution that govern the criminal process that happens before the trial itself starts. 

For that reason, criminal procedure is honed in on the fourth, fifth and, sixth amendment rights to a large degree. It’s really a blueprint for how citizens interact with the government. Things like the privilege against self-incrimination, confessions and Miranda warnings all turn on criminal procedure law. Criminal procedure answers questions such as when can happen when the police approach you? What rights do you have? When can your personal private spaces be searched? Many more questions can arise during a criminal prosecution. As criminal defense lawyers, we feel it’s every citizen’s right and duty to understand their rights and make sure they do everything in their power and control to assert them.

The Fourth Amendment

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 Fifth Amendment

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 offence 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 Sixth Amendment

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.

Other Rights and Guarantees

While the fourth, fifth and, sixth amendments are some of the most critical constitutional rights involved in criminal procedure, there’s a range of other rights involved. Depending on the facts involved in any particular case, there could be several additional considerations with a different constitutional basis or a specific line of cases developing the right through judicial canon. Because of the complex landscape of rights involved, there’s no substitute for a thorough analysis conducted by experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys.


Dennis P. Sawan


Licensed in Ohio and Georgia


Christopher A. Sawan


Licensed in Ohio and Michigan

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