Under the United States Constitution, participants in the criminal justice system are governed by a set of rights. These rights include: the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to never be put on trial for the same crime more than once, the right to remain silent, the right to due process (meaning the right to a procedurally and substantively fair trial), and the right to a speedy, public trial by an impartial jury. These rights can generally be found in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution. Governance of the criminal justice system affects each member of society, whether they are a suspect or defendant in a criminal matter, attorney representing the accused party or government, judge, or member of the jury. Thus, the protection of these rights is critically important.
Through monitoring the criminal justice system, investigating allegations of abuse, and engaging in legislative campaigns aimed toward reform, the ACLU of Georgia works to uphold these rights.
A. M. v. Martin, 1996-1998
General Description: Prompt Probable Cause
Summary of the Issues Involved: Like adults, juveniles alleged to have committed an act in violation of the criminal law are entitled to fair and due process. In this case, a group of juvenile offenders, represented by the ACLU of Georgia, brought a lawsuit against the court system for failure to hold probable cause hearings in a timely manner. The Government argued that juveniles, like adults, could be held in warrantless detention for a maximum of 72 hours under Georgia law. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia stated that juveniles detained without a warrant are entitled to a prompt probable cause hearing, and must be given such a hearing within 48 hours of the warrantless detention, inclusive of weekends and holidays.
Richardson v. Atlanta, 1997-1999
General Description: Homelessness - “Urban Camping”
Summary of the Issues Involved: The City of Atlanta passed an “urban camping” ordinance which made it a crime to sleep or lie down on public grounds. Persons found in violation of this law could be imprisoned up to six months. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging this ordinance, arguing it violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The lawsuit eventually settled and the plaintiffs received damages for their claims.
General Description: Homelessness
Summary of the Issues Involved: The City of Atlanta passed ordinances banning homeless individuals from panhandling and sleeping in public places. The ACLU of Georgia filed this lawsuit arguing the ordinances were overbroad and a violation of constitutional rights.
Whitaker v. Perdue, 2006-2013
General Description: Sex Offender Lawsuit
Summary of the Issues Involved: Plaintiffs, convicted sex offenders, filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Georgia to challenge a law preventing sex offenders from living or working within one thousand feet of school bus stops and churches. The plaintiffs, all low-level offenders, argued the law violated their fundamental rights because it did not distinguish between low- and high-level offenders and did not offer an exemption. Eventually, the case was dismissed for lack of standing.