Initiation of the Prosecution

The Elements of Due Process

Initiation of the Prosecution.—Indictment by a grand jury is not a requirement of due process; a State may proceed instead by information.979 Due process does require that, whatever the procedure, a defendant must be given adequate notice of the offense charged against him and for which he is to be tried,980 even aside from the notice requirements of the Sixth Amendment.981 Where, of course, a grand jury is utilized, it must be fairly constituted and free from prejudicial influences.982

979 Hurtado v. California, 110 U.S. 516 (1884). The Court has also rejected an argument that due process requires that criminal prosecutions go forward only on a showing of probable cause. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266 (1994) (holding that there is no civil rights action based on the Fourteenth Amendment for arrest and imposition of bond without probable cause).

980 Smith v. O'Grady, 312 U.S. 329 (1941) (guilty plea of layman unrepresented by counsel to what prosecution represented as a charge of simple burglary but which was in fact a charge of "burglary with explosives" carrying a much lengthier sentence voided). See also Cole v. Arkansas, 333 U.S. 196 (1948) (affirmance by appellate court of conviction and sentence on ground that evidence showed defendant guilty under a section of the statute not charged violated due process); In re Ruffalo, 390 U.S. 544 (1968) (disbarment in proceeding on charge which was not made until after lawyer had testified denied due process); Rabe v. Washington, 405 U.S. 313 (1972) (affirmance of obscenity conviction because of the context in which a movie was shown—grounds neither covered in the statute nor listed in the charge—was invalid).

981 See Sixth Amendment, Notice of Accusation, supra.

982 Norris v. Alabama, 294 U.S. 587 (1935); Cassell v. Texas, 339 U.S. 282 (1950); Eubanks v. Louisiana, 356 U.S. 584 (1958); Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 (1954); Pierre v. Louisiana, 306 U.S. 354 (1939). On prejudicial publicity, see Beck v. Washington, 369 U.S. 541 (1962).

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