Constitutional Rights Every Criminal Defendant Has in The United States

COLaw Team believes it’s important that you know your rights as a defendant. Defendant rights must be honored throughout the constitutional criminal procedure. In this article, you’ll find a brief overview of criminal justice rights that everyone needs to know.

Miranda Rights

Miranda Rights are common to many people who watch criminal dramas on TV. They are the rights that police read to someone when they are arrested such as, the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present for questioning. The Miranda warning itself is not a constitutional right, but rather based on a landmark case at the Supreme Court, where the Court set out the rules and timing of when Mirand rights need to be read to an arrestee.

Here at COLawTeam, we get questions from clients about police failing to read them their rights almost daily. But, in reality, Miranda rights don’t need to be read to you unless/until you’re in handcuffs and the police intend to question you (custody + interrogation is required). Without both custody and interrogation, Miranda rights are unnecessary and anything you say cannot be suppressed later. That being said, you always have these other constitutional rights.

The Right to Avoid Self-Incrimination

The Fifth Amendment includes criminal rights that state the defendant can avoid answering any questions that might incriminate them. This applies during interrogations and during trial. This also applies during traffic stops or even just routine requests for identification. You cannot refuse to provide your identification, but you can refuse to make any statement whatsoever.

Presumption of Innocence

You’ve probably heard the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” before. This means that a juror should not step into a case with the preconceived notion that a defendant is guilty; instead, they will go in with an open mind and analyze the case based on evidence provided. In reality, police, prosecutors, and even some judges have a hard time accepting this right. That’s why a skilled trial attorney like those at COLawTeam is an absolute must-have if you intend to go to trial on your case.

A Speedy Trial

There are statutes of limitations in place that put time restraints on the prosecution.In Colorado, your right to a “speedy trial” has been set by statute at 6 months from the date you plead not guilty. If speedy trial expires, the prosecution is prohibited from proceeding with trial against the defendant, and the case will be dismissed. What is considered “speedy” is not actually defined by our federal Constitution, and, in many cases, Coloradoans can expect trial to take 18-24 months instead of the stuatoty 6 months, regularly.

Due Process

The Constitution protects people from the loss of life, liberty, or property without due process—which essentially encompasses a defendant’s right to be heard, call witnesses, present evidence, and testify. Due process means you need notice of the charges against you beforehand and a right to have a hearing regarding your situation before your life, liberty, or property can be taken from you.

Equal Protection

The Fourteenth Amendment states that every individual should be equally protected under the law and prohibits preferential treatment. Colorado’s state constitution also has similar protections. Certain classes, which are usually based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and, in some states, even sexual orientation, are entitled to greater protection.

Right to Confront Accuser

The defendant has the right to confront their accuser and may also cross-examine any witness who speaks against them—including the alleged victim of the crime.

Trial by Jury

Every citizen is given the right to a trial by a jury of their peers, chosen from the community as impartial citizens. Jury members who have biases or conflicts of interest will be removed.

Freedom From Double Jeopardy

A person cannot be charged in separate cases more than once for the same crime, according to the Fifth Amendment. This does not prohibit multiple charges or counts to be listed in the same indictment, though.

Freedom From Excessive Bail

When setting bail, a judge is required to analyze the severity of the crime and flight risk of the defendant. Courts also consider the need to protect the public, the severity of the crime, and other factors. Many jurisdictions have a “bond schedule” based on the classification of the offense.

Legal Counsel

Every defendant has the right to a lawyer during a criminal trial, prior to trial, and during questioning. If they cannot afford a private lawyer, a public defender will be appointed to them. Here at COLawTeam we often act as public defender “overflow” attorneys and we are known as “Alternate Defense Counsel” attorneys in many jurisdictions.

Getting Help

COLaw Team is here to help defendants through their criminal cases. Get in touch with us today for help on your case.