Four Key Individual Rights in a Criminal Case

The jury system is the foundation of individual rights in criminal cases. This is a right few others enjoy. An estimated 90 percent of the word’s jury trials occur in the United States. Rather ironically, that’s also roughly the proportion of criminal plea bargains as opposed to trials in the United States.

However, even if your Parker County criminal case does not involve a jury trial, defendants still have a number of rights. Some major ones are explored below.

Checks on Police Power

Before they may search an area, seize evidence, or make an attest, police officers usually need warrants. These warrants must be supported by probable cause. If such cause already exists, courts conclude that there is no reason for a warrant. For example, if an officer witnesses a criminal offense, a warrant is arguably a waste of judicial resources.

But even in these situations, officers are still accountable. This accountability includes both the arrest and their conduct during that arrest. In most other countries, such accountability is either thin or nonexistent.

Right to Counsel

Once the prosecution reaches a critical stage, there is an absolute right to counsel. Most courts interpret a “critical stage” as either custodial interrogation or the beginning of the actual court process. Since Texas adopted a per se DWI law, there have been occasional efforts to make this Sixth Amendment right available earlier. Many have argued that a chemical test is now a critical stage, because defendants who fail the test are guilty as a matter of law. However, so far these arguments have fallen on deaf ears.

Right to Bail

If the defendant remains incarcerated, the prosecutor has a significant advantage. If the defendant is basically unavailable, it’s very hard to plan an effective defense. Moreover, many jurors attach a stigma to people in jail. There are clearly personal reasons for a defendant to be out of jail during these periods as well.

Presumption of Innocence

In a criminal case, the presumption of innocence may be the most important individual right. Defendants need not “prove” their innocence. The burden of proof falls exclusively on the prosecutor. If there is insufficient evidence to overcome this presumption, the defendant is not guilty. The burden is very high. Texas law does not explicitly define the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But it basically means an overwhelming amount of evidence which all points to guilt.

A good lawyer fights for your rights from beginning to end. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle cases in Tarrant County and nearby jurisdictions.