Your Legal Rights as a Criminal Defendant
The United States Constitution affords some important protections to those accused of crimes. The rights granted by the Bill of Rights and other amendments are part of the bedrock of our criminal justice system and help ensure fair treatment under the law. Among others, the Constitution guarantees the right to due process and the right to legal counsel.
At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, our board-certified attorneys provide comprehensive legal representation to clients in state and federal cases. We are committed to protecting our clients’ rights and fighting back when police or prosecutors attempt to violate them. To learn more, contact us for a free case consultation.
Your Constitutional Rights
The U.S. Constitution guarantees the following rights. While they originally applied only to federal cases, the Fourteenth Amendment’s “due process” clause extended them to the states.
The Right to Remain Silent: Navigating the Fifth Amendment
One of the foundational rights for criminal defendants is the right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Its intent is to prevent the government from using pressure or coercion to secure an accused individual’s verbal or written confession. Silence also cannot be taken as evidence of guilt.
You’re probably familiar with the phrase “you have the right to remain silent” as it appears in the Miranda warning, which police must read to individuals being taken into custody for interrogation. The Miranda warning makes explicit the right to avoid self-incrimination, as well as the Sixth Amendment right to legal representation.
The right to remain silent applies during an investigation and at trial — you’re not obligated to answer questions. While you may choose to waive your right to protection against self-incrimination, you should only do so with full knowledge and understanding of the potential consequences. Consult with an attorney before you say anything to law enforcement.
Legal Representation: The Sixth Amendment’s Assurance
The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial. A key element of this right is the right to counsel beginning with the onset of criminal proceedings.
The point at which the Sixth Amendment right to counsel goes into effect has been fiercely debated. The right only applies in critical stages of criminal proceedings, although what constitutes a “critical stage” is also open to debate.
It’s important to note that while the Sixth Amendment right to a defense attorney doesn’t apply before charges are filed, it does not prevent you from retaining counsel earlier, such as when you’re under suspicion or under investigation.
Knowing when you may and when you should have a lawyer present is a complicated and sensitive matter and one you shouldn’t trust the government to decide for you. This is why securing legal counsel as soon as possible is in your best interest. Your criminal defense lawyer will understand the process and will be there to advocate for you throughout it.
Searches, Seizures, and the Fourth Amendment
Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. This protection applies to your body, home, papers, and property.
A search is an intrusion by the government on any of the above in an effort to obtain information. Fourth Amendment protection generally applies in situations, circumstances, and settings where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but it doesn’t apply to information you’ve shared with third parties.
A seizure, meanwhile, is the taking possession of personal property by the government for use as evidence. It also applies to the detention of a person, even briefly. A person is regarded as having been seized if their freedom to move or leave has been restricted either physically or through a demonstration of authority, such as when they are placed under arrest.
The Fourth Amendment also establishes the necessity of a valid search warrant based on probable cause. A court must generally approve a warrant as part of the process of a criminal investigation before police may conduct a search or seize property. There are some exceptions in which a warrant is unneeded, such as when a person consents to a search, when items are in plain view, or during exigent circumstances involving imminent danger.
Due Process and the Right to a Fair Trial
Under the Sixth Amendment, accused individuals are guaranteed the right to due process and a fair, speedy, and public trial. The right to due process refers to the requirement that the government not deprive a person of their life, liberty, or property without having followed clearly enumerated and fair procedures. Among the rights granted as part of due process are the rights to:
- An unbiased jury
- Be notified of charges
- Present evidence and know opposing evidence
- Call and cross-examine witnesses
- Be represented by legal counsel
These rights matter because they force the process of administering justice out into the open and make it harder for the government to circumvent the law in an effort to obtain a conviction. The right to legal representation provides an additional safeguard because it ensures the rights of the accused are upheld.
Protecting Your Rights with the Help of a Criminal Defense Attorney
Your right to a defense attorney is guaranteed under the Constitution. It’s up to you to make the best use of it. When you’ve been accused of a crime, you deserve representatives with experience in every relevant facet of criminal law, including appellate law, and who understand how to uphold your rights throughout the legal process.
Broden & Mickelsen, LLP has been providing exceptional legal representation to individuals accused of crimes for more than 60 combined years. We represent individuals and businesses at the trial and appellate levels in state and federal cases. We also have a successful track record in fighting for post-conviction relief for our clients. Board-certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in criminal law and criminal appellate law, we bring our full experience and understanding of the law to every case we handle.
Contact us today for a free case review. We look forward to learning more about your case and demonstrating how we will fight for your liberty.