In our system of law, those who are suspected of a crime may be requested to make a police statement or be charged. Police, prosecutors, lawyers, and judges have difficult jobs. Each has a different focus and the legal system works best when those who are suspected of a crime exercise their constitutional rights. This blog explores your key constitutional rights under the United States Constitution:
The right to be free of illegal searches and seizures (4th Amendment): As a general rule, the police cannot search one’s home without probable cause and a search warrant signed by a detached neutral judge. Nevertheless a person may consent to a search without a search warrant and waive this right. As a general rule, consenting to any search is a legal mistake and undermines your constitutional rights.
The right to remain silent (5th Amendment): If you are suspected of a crime, it is human nature to want to explain yourself. However, as a general rule, a person suspected of a crime should not be making statements. Failure to disclose a fact or mis-statement can itself be a crime, such as obstruction of justice. However, such silence does not include failing to identify yourself to police.
The right to counsel (6th Amendment): Sometimes there is the need to make a statement to police or testify at trial. However, this is a complex decision that requires evaluation of the risks and benefits to this. Without a proper utilization of your constitutional rights, the system can sometimes result in an improper conviction by a judge or jury.
The right to a speedy trial (6th Amendment): In the event you are charged with a criminal act, you are entitled to a speedy bench or jury trial as this is a burden weighing heavily on any person. If you are incarcerated, the trial must occur on an even faster means. However, sometimes it benefits a defendant to waive such right to properly prepare his or her case. This is a decision that should be made with the benefit of an attorney.
The right to face your accuser (6th Amendment): Supposition and inference of suspicion is not generally sufficient to support a criminal conviction. An accused has the right to face his or her accuser and subject this person to cross examination, which tests whether or not the witnesses’ story withstands logical analysis. Sometimes this does not occur. This results in the defendant being acquitted (found not guilty).
The right to due process of law (14th Amendment): Due process of law is comprised of two parts. The first is the substance, which means a prosecutor must establish every element of the crime set forth in a statute beyond a reasonable doubt. The second is procedural due process. Procedural due process is comprised of many things, but basically means that the defendant can gather evidence and prepare his case with the aid of the court in a way that best serves justice and presumption of innocence.
Every citizen should be aware of these rights and others found under the United States and Indiana Constitutions. We hope this blog post has helped you better understand your legal rights and be a better citizen. This is what freedom is about—being involved. This blog post is not intended to provide specific legal advice nor solicit services. Ciyou & Dixon advocates practice throughout the State of Indiana.