The criminal justice system is intimidating, but that doesn't mean that criminal defendants don't have rights. Through each stage of the criminal justice system, there are important rights that the government must uphold. This section provides information on the rights of those in the criminal justice system, including Miranda rights such as the right to remain silence, "search and seizure" rights, key rights of criminal defendants, and the various prisoner rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. To begin, select a link from the list below.
Search and Seizure
Search and seizure is the legal term used to describe a police officer's examination of a person’s home, vehicle, or business to find evidence that a crime has been committed. If evidence is found, the agent may then “seize” it. Search and seizure also includes placing an individual under arrest.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects our right to privacy by prohibiting unreasonable intrusions into our personal property. In order to uphold these rights, the legislature and the courts created legal safeguards to allow officers to interfere with a person’s Fourth Amendment rights only under specific conditions.
If you have ever watched Law and Order, you have probably seen a police officer advise the suspect of his or her Miranda Rights. This warning is read after an arrest has been made and before police questioning is conducted.
The warning, which is intended to inform you of your rights regarding police questioning, does not have to be read to you if you are not placed under arrest. Why? Because if you are not arrested for committing a crime, you are not going to trial, so you don’t need to be warned that what you say can be used against you during trial.
If you have been read your Miranda Rights and waive your right to remain silent or to have an attorney present, you can later change your mind by saying “I plead the Fifth.”
At a criminal trial, a defendant has several very important rights. The most crucial being that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Defendants also have the right to face their accusers, the right to refuse to incriminate themselves, and the right to avoid being prosecuted twice for the same offense, among others.
Keep in mind, the right to a fair and public hearing does not always apply to cases involving immigration law; extradition, tax or voting rights.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You
There is no need to ever try to represent yourself in a criminal case, especially when the charge can carry substantial penalties if you lose. It is strongly recommended that you consult a criminal defense attorney to help preserve you rights and provide you with the best possible defense.
If you have never been arrested before, this is very likely to be the scariest time in your life. A good criminal defense attorney can guide you through each step of the process, and can help you find the right defense for the charge you are facing. Depending on where you are arrested, your age at the time of the alleged crime and the severity of the crime, you will first want to find a criminal defense attorney to help you get bonded out of jail so that you can focus on your defense more clearly.