Your Constitutional Rights as a Criminal Defendant
The United States Constitution and its subsequent amendments define the scope of governmental powers and reserve certain individual rights to people who have been accused of a crime by the state. Most important to you as a criminal defendant are the following rights established under the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment
The Right to be Free of Any Unreasonable Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits, with some key exceptions, unreasonable searches and seizures. It instructs that a warrant must be issued where there is probable cause to suspect that a crime has been committed and requires the request for a warrant to be supported by an oath or affirmation which describes the place to be searched and/or the person or things to be seized.
The Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment provides the criminal defendant many fundamental rights, most importantly the following:
The Right to Remain Silent
The Fifth Amendment protects you against self-incrimination, meaning that you cannot be forced to testify against yourself.
You cannot be made to testify or even answer questions if the question may tend to incriminate you. Even in a grand jury proceeding, you may refuse to answer any question that suggests the possibility that you may incriminate yourself.
This means that if you are asked a question that would require you to admit to a crime or that would subject you to prosecution, then you can refuse to answer.
To compel you to answer in this context, prosecutors would have to give you immunity from prosecution in order to force you to testify despite your Fifth Amendment right.
The Right Against Double Jeopardy
The Fifth Amendment also establishes the prohibition against double jeopardy, which means that you cannot be tried twice for the same offense.
The Right to Due Process of Law
The Fifth Amendment finally contains the important due process clause whereby the state is prohibited from depriving you of “any life, liberty or property without due process of law”.
The Sixth Amendment
The Sixth Amendment provides you with the following rights:
- The right to be informed of the law and the possible punishment that you face for violating the law.
- The right to consult with an attorney, family members and friends before entering any guilty plea or not guilty plea before the court.
- The right to a Court appointed attorney if you establish that you are unable to employ an attorney because of your indigence.
- The right to be presumed innocent unless the state has proven each and every element of your crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The right to summon witnesses and have them testify on your behalf.
- The right to cross-examine and confront any witness who is testifying against you.
- The right to “a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury”.
The Eighth Amendment
Right to Bail
The Eighth Amendment bars the state from setting excessive bail and fines, and it also contains the amendment that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
The Fourteenth Amendment
The Right to Equal Protection Under the Law
The Fourteenth Amendment reaffirms your right to due process of law with its own due process clause, and most importantly it contains the equal protection clause which stipulates that no state can selectively enforce its laws or selectively deny citizens within its borders the protection of US citizenship.
Albuquerque Criminal Defense Attorney
The attorneys of the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices in Albuquerque are here to protect your rights throughout the criminal process. For the best results, contact our lawyers immediately when you’ve been accused of a crime. Don’t speak to anyone until you call us, 505-375-4767.