In the United States, anyone who is charged with a crime has certain rights that are provided by the Constitution, including the right to legal representation. If you are facing criminal charges, it is critical to seek the counsel of a defense attorney who can help you understand your rights under the law. An experienced lawyer can guide you through the process and act as your advocate.
Constitutional Rights of Criminal Defendants
There are certain processes and procedures that must be followed when a person is arrested and charged with a crime. Defendants’ rights are outlined in the United States Constitution. If law enforcement, prosecutors, or other officers of the court fail to adhere to these procedures, criminal charges may be dropped or convictions may be overturned in some cases. There are several constitutional amendments that address criminal defendants’ rights.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Law enforcement must have probable cause to search you, your home, your car, or to seize any property you own. However, if a crime is suspected and there is enough probable cause, a judge can issue a search warrant that allows police to look for evidence. It is important to note that if the evidence is obtained illegally, it may not be used against a criminal defendant in court.
The Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment protects criminal defendants against self-incrimination. When police arrest someone, they must read that person their Miranda rights, which advise them of their right to remain silent, their right to an attorney, and other rights. In addition, a criminal defendant cannot be compelled to testify in court as a “witness against himself.”
The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the court from putting a defendant on trial more than once for the same crime. However, defendants can be tried in both state and federal court for the same offense. Defendants can also be sued in civil court in addition to facing criminal charges.
The Sixth Amendment
The Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to legal representation. If they cannot afford a lawyer, a public defender will be appointed to handle their case. Defendants have the right to a speedy trial, which means that there are limits on how long a defendant must wait from filing of the charges to trial.
When someone is accused of a crime, they have the right to be tried by a jury of their peers in a public forum. Typically, a unanimous verdict is required for a conviction. Criminal defendants also have the right to confront an accuser and witnesses, who are subject to cross-examination that is usually conducted by the defendant’s lawyer during court proceedings.
The Eighth Amendment
The Eighth Amendment affords criminal defendants the right to reasonable bail, which means that the bail amount must be commensurate with the offense. This Amendment also protects the defendant against cruel and unusual punishment if they are convicted.
Why You Need an Attorney If You Are Charged with a Crime
A criminal conviction can take away your freedom, ruin your reputation, and have a serious impact on your ability to find work and housing, not to mention the toll that it can take on loved ones. Attempting to defend yourself against criminal charges is typically a losing battle. A skilled criminal lawyer will protect your rights and work to negotiate a reasonable plea bargain or build a solid defense to present to the court.