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Seven Constitutional Rights in Criminal Cases

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for civil law.jpegThe Bill of Rights was one of the most earth-shaking and controversial documents in the history of mankind. Never before had a government placed such drastic limits on its own authority. Today, over two hundred years later, lawyers and judges still struggle with concepts like free speech and gun ownership.

Yet the Bill of Rights is nothing but empty words unless people know their rights, and they know how to exercise the, This knowledge is especially important with regard to criminal rights. Weatherford criminal defense attorneys usually do not enter the process until after authorities have arrested the defendant. So, it may be up to you to assert your rights, at least in the early going.

Remain Silent

The Fifth Amendment gives people the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Furthermore, in most cases, this refusal cannot be used against them in court. Additionally, the right to remain silent also includes actions, such as the right to refuse to perform DWI field sobriety tests.

Confront Witnesses

This right comes up frequently in many sexual assault prosecutions. Whenever possible, prosecutors like to shield alleged victims from cross-examination, especially if their stories are shaky. To do so, prosecutors often cite privacy or some other issue. But the alleged victim's comfort does not outweigh the defendant's constitutional right to look accusers in the eye, at least in most cases.

Public Trial

Similarly, the trial must be public. A judge always has the right to bar cameras and other recording equipment. But judges can only close trials under very limited circumstances. Public scrutiny, or at least the possibility of such scrutiny, is a very effective way to keep judges and prosecutors honest.

Jury Trial

Only a small percentage of criminal cases get all the way to a jury trial. Plea bargains resolve almost all these matters. Nevertheless, a jury trial is fundamental to the American system.

Speedy Trial

Parker County criminal courts do not operate on a stopwatch. Speedy trial acts are in place, but their limits are usually more like guidelines. Essentially, the Constitution's speedy trial provision means the state cannot drag things out forever. Defendants need closure, and this provision guarantees such an ending.

Attorney Representation

People can represent themselves in court, just like they can amputate their own legs. I would not recommend either approach to anyone.

Double Jeopardy

The state cannot try the same person twice for the same offense. So, if a jury aquits a defendant of murder, the state cannot re-try the defendant for aggravated assualt. However, under a recent Supreme Court case, separate sovereigns, like the state and federal government, can prosecute a defendant for the same offense.

Your constitutional rights should never be overlooked. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available.

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