What is the Connection Between the 14th Amendment and Due Process?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The 14th Amendment and due process are very closely connected, as the 14th Amendment contains a due process clause requiring states to provide due process to their residents. The Fifth Amendment also contains a discussion of due process, at the more general federal level. The protections provided by the 14th Amendment to citizens are relied upon every day in a wide variety of settings, from courts of law to classrooms, and this amendment to the Constitution of the United States plays an important role in the American legal landscape.

The 14th Amendment requires states to offer due process to residents.
The 14th Amendment requires states to offer due process to residents.

Understanding the connection between the 14th Amendment and due process, civil rights, and citizenship issues is important for legal scholars, as well as some practicing lawyers. This amendment has been used in court to argue civil rights cases, challenge outcomes in criminal trials, and in many other types of cases.

The 14th Amendment is one of a group of amendments passed after the Civil War and known as the reconstruction amendments, addressing social and political issues that arose during reconstruction. There are five sections in this amendment and the first spells out a number of important legal concepts, including extending citizenship to all people born in the United States, mandating due process on a state level, and providing people with access to equal protection under the law. The 14th Amendment and due process are a reflection of changing social attitudes in the United States and a desire to increase protections for Americans.

Due process requires the government to follow clearly established guidelines when initiating legal proceedings with the potential to deprive people of liberty and take away property. In addition, it also covers the ultimate deprivation of liberty, death in capital punishment cases. The Fifth and 14th Amendments both address due process with the goal of ensuring that all people in the United States have access to due process of law. With the 14th Amendment and due process, one specific purpose was forcing states to extend due process to former slaves, offering civil rights to a historically marginalized population.

People deprived of due process during legal proceedings taking place in their states can turn to the 14th Amendment and due process to show that the actions of the state are unconstitutional and cannot be upheld. This can be used to reverse legal decisions in appellate court by demonstrating that due process was not followed. Due process involves both procedural due process, whether things are carried out appropriately and within the bounds of the law, and substantive due process, whether actions can be considered fair and reasonable, even if they are performed legally. Thus, a law banning home ownership for Canadian-Americans can be passed legally by a state legislature, but struck down on the grounds that it is clearly discriminatory, and thus violates substantive due process.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- That is a bit overstated, isn't it? I mean, it sounds like people who want to get rid of the 14th Amendment have a problem with civil rights, too.

I don't think that is usually the case. Instead, I believe a lot of the "states rights" crowd focuses on the 10th Amendment which specifically reserves to the states those powers not explicitly given the federal government.

I would like to think that is the case. You really have to wonder about people who would like to get rid of the 14th Amendment. That has done a lot to end much injustice against minorities in this nation and should be regarded as such.


@Soulfox -- If you want to see the true impact of the Fourteenth Amendment, keep in mind how what we called the nation started to change around the time that was passed. Instead of calling it these United States, we started referring to it as the United States (and still do).

Switching one little work -- exchanging a "these" for "the" -- reveals a sense of collectivism that wasn't felt in the earlier days of the nation when states were considered at least as important as the U.S. when it came to authority over citizens.

When people talk about states rights, they are really talking about going back to a time before the 14th Amendment was in place.


It is interesting that the 14th Amendment is almost always lumped in with slavery and the end of the War Between the States. That amendment helped put an end to what has become known as "state's rights," or the notion that states had more authority over their citizens than the federal government.

The 14th Amendment effectively guaranteed the Bill of Rights to citizens of all states regardless of the laws of those states. That is something a strong federal government does and pointed the United States down that road.

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