The U.S. Constitution guarantees some very basic rights to any citizen who is accused of a crime. The biggest right of all is the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. In other words, until and unless it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that you committed a crime, you will be considered not guilty. This also means that a criminal defendant has no obligation to prove his/her innocence. The defendant’s decision to remain silent cannot be used against him/her as an inference of guilt.
There are also other rights that you should be aware of if you are accused of a crime. These are known as “Miranda Rights” and are typically read out to you at the time of your arrest to ensure you are aware of them. They include:
- The right to remain silent
- The right against self-incrimination
- The right to an attorney if you cannot afford one
- The right to a speedy, fair and public trial
- The right to reasonable bail
- The right to be informed of the charges against you
- The right to confront any witnesses who are testifying against you at trial
When you talk about your rights while being accused of a crime, you need to know that the U.S. Constitution guarantees you protection for certain rights that cannot be violated. In fact, the first ten amendments to our Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, make it mandatory for all states to abide by all these rights when prosecuting a person who is suspected of a crime. Also, according to the Fourteenth Amendment, every state also has to provide “due process” of law in all actions including criminal laws and to give equal protection to all citizens. Therefore, if you are accused of a crime, your treatment should be fair and just. There should be no preferential treatment and you should not and cannot be sentenced purely on the basis of your race or age. Every step, including the charges, evidence, bail, trial, and punishment have to be in line with the U.S. Constitution.
In case the police believe that you might have something incriminating or illegal in your possession, they can’t just barge in to your home or vehicle and search your belongings. Your rights are protected in this case as well, and the authorities will only be able to legally search your place if they have a search warrant. The search warrant has to state who, where, and what is to be searched before it is considered to be legal, and then signed by a judge. Only under very special circumstances are the police able to search your property without a warrant.
There are also laws regarding search and seizure which require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before they are allowed to search a certain place at a certain time. The warrant needs to stated with specificity who, where, and what is to be searched. However, there are certain circumstances where police do not need a warrant to search and/or arrest you.
It is important to understand that in case of arrest, the burden of proof is always on the government. They are the ones who have to justify why you are being arrested. The U.S. Constitution guarantees those accused of a crime the privilege of a writ of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is a Latin term which, when translated, means “you have the body.” The writ of habeas corpus is basically a guarantee that you cannot be held for more than a short period of time, unless the authorities have conclusive proof that you committed the crime in question. Without such proof, you cannot be formally charged, and you also cannot be deemed guilty.
Another very important right that you should be aware of is related to punishment during imprisonment. If you are found guilty and imprisoned, the Eighth Amendment guarantees that you will not be subject to any cruel and/or unusual punishment. This excludes any punishment that can be classified as inhumane or which would violate your dignity. The Eighth Amendment is often quoted during death penalty debates and discussions, but in essence, this amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, excessive fines, and excessive bail.
If you need a criminal defense attorney, contact us today for a free consultation. With access to reliable support staff and investigative services, the Greenwald Law Firm is able to bring our substantial skills to work more efficiently and effectively on behalf of your criminal case. Always make sure you understand your rights before you are involved in a police encounter to further protect yourself from false incrimination. Call our experienced Shreveport defense lawyer today to make sure your rights are upheld and you have the best case to protect yourself from wrongful charges.