Under both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, neither the federal government nor state governments may deprive any person “of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” A similar due process provision was found in the Magna Charta, as well as early state constitutions. Chief Justice William Howard Taft explained the purpose behind the clauses in Truax v. Corrigan (1921) as follows: “The due process clause requires that every man shall have the protection of his day in court, and the benefit of the general law, a law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds not arbitrarily or capriciously, but upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial, so that every citizen shall hold his life, liberty, property and immunities under the protection of the general rules which govern society. It, of course, tends to secure equality of law in the sense that it makes a required minimum of protection for every one’s right of life, liberty, and property, which the Congress or the Legislature may not withhold.”
Courts have interpreted the due process clauses as providing two distinct limitations on government. First, the clauses provide for procedural due process, which requires the government to follow certain procedures before it deprives a person of life, liberty, or property. Cases that address procedural due process usually focus on the type of notice that is required of the government or the type of hearing that must be held when the government takes a particular action. Second, the clauses establish substantive due process, under which courts determine whether the government has sufficient justification for its actions. Because courts use substantive due process to protect certain fundamental rights of U.S. citizens, issues related to substantive due process have been the subject of extensive debate.