Criminal & Constitutional Law 101: Basic Rights

By August 13, 2020No Comments

1. Right to Remain Silent:

You are not required to talk to the police when questioned about a crime. Do NOT give a statement. The Fifth Amendment and the Miranda decision of the Supreme Court generally state that the Fifth Amendment protects the innocent person, as well as the guilty. Anything you say likely will be tape recorded or videotaped with or without your knowledge. (Do NOT discuss facts of an alleged crime with anyone including family members. There is no privilege to protect your statements to these persons).

2. Right to Counsel:

The Sixth Amendment gives you the right to have counsel before giving any statements or submitting to questioning. You NEED a lawyer BEFORE you make any statements to the police. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court is required to appoint an attorney.

3. Right to be Free From Unreasonable Searches or Seizures:

Do NOT allow any search of your body, home, garage, business, computer, car, boat or other dwelling or conveyance or property, unless an officer presents proper credentials and a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. ONLY if the police have a valid search warrant is it appropriate to give permission to search. If there is a warrant, ask to read the papers before granting permission. Then ask the officers if you may watch as they search and ask to call your lawyer before the search. You never know whether your spouse, children or perhaps a friend or acquaintance (or even a stranger) may have placed or left contraband or other evidence of crime in or on your property. NEVER allow a search without a warrant. If asked whether it will be okay to search, just say, “No.”

4. Right to Due Process of Law:

This means that you must be given the opportunity of a fair trial or to fair procedures and that certain rights or privileges or property cannot be taken from you except under special circumstances.

5. Right to Equal Protection Under the Law:

This right is intended to give all persons, regardless of race, creed, nationality, religion, gender, the same protections or rights. In other words, no person or class of persons shall be denied the protections enjoyed by other persons or classes in like circumstances.

6. Right to a Speedy and Public Trial:

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a “speedy trial” without unreasonable delays. This does not mean that you receive an immediate trial, but factors are analyzed to determine whether the delay is reasonable and whether there is any prejudice caused by an unreasonable delay. Your trial must be open to the public (except in certain juvenile settings).

7. Right to Subpoena Witnesses:

If you go to preliminary hearing or trial, you have the right to compulsory process or to subpoena witnesses regardless of whether the witness agrees to cooperate. If you serve the witness with process, they must attend hearings and give testimony (thus the right of confronting your accusers).

8. Right to a Trial by Jury:

You are entitled to a jury trial, unless both you and the government agree to a trial before the judge. If you demand a trial, a jury of six or twelve qualified persons must be impaneled to hear your case.

9. Right to a Unanimous Verdict:

To be convicted of a crime, all jurors must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In most cases, twelve people must agree that you are guilty of the crime charged; otherwise, you cannot be found guilty. (If the jury reaches an impasse, the jury may be hung or split. Under these circumstances, you can be tried again).

10. Right to be Free from Subsequent Trials (Double Jeopardy):

The Fifth Amendment states that no person be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. If the jury unanimously agrees that you are not guilty, then you cannot be tried again for that crime.

11. Right to Appeal:

You have an appeal of right if you are convicted at trial. If you enter into a plea bargain or if you simply plead guilty, you may or may not waive certain rights to appeal.


Author halwalker

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