What are your rights if you are accused of a crime?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2022 | Criminal Law |

When someone is accused of a crime, it is important to remember that all US citizens are granted specific rights during a criminal court proceeding. These rights are outlined in the United States Constitution and are there to protect individuals throughout each stage of the process. 

US Constitutional rights

The United States Constitution ensures that all US citizens have rights, including the assumption that anyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. These rights are detailed in the Sixth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. Some of these rights include:

Right to a fair trial

In the US, a fair trial is characterized by regular and just procedures spearheaded by an impartial judge in an impartial jury. In a fair trial, every accused person maintains the right to defend themselves against the charges brought forth in court. This right includes securing legal counsel to defend their case, calling on witnesses, presenting evidence, and cross-examining the prosecution’s case.

Right to due process

The right to due process means that a case is processed and resolved according to set principles and the rule of law. Many of these rights are enshrined in the foundation of US law, including the Bill of Rights or the first ten Amendments to the US Constitution. State, federal, and local governments must respect individuals’ rights during legal proceedings. When obtaining evidence against a defendant, the prosecution must follow strict guidelines, like obtaining a search warrant of an accused’s property, so the facts of the case are considered admissible in court.

Right against self-incrimination

As outlined in the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, all citizens have a right against self-incrimination. Commonly known as “pleading the Fifth,” this law means that any accused maintains the right to decline questioning from law enforcement while in police custody or in court. While a defendant may choose to testify in court on their own behalf, they are not required to do so. Furthermore, a jury can not use a defendant’s decision to testify or remain silent as part of their judgment of the charges. 

To maintain the standard of law in the US regarding criminal proceedings, the court must uphold the specific rights of the individuals involved. These rights are in place to ensure that the execution of the law is applied fairly and justly to the best of the court’s ability. 

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