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Facing criminal charges? Know your rights

eing charged with a crime is no laughing matter, even when it’s a simple DUI and all you need is an experienced DUI lawyer. Any criminal charge, after all, comes with hefty fines and penalties if you are found guilty. And if the crime you’re being charged with is a capital one, your life is on the line as well.

When criminal charges have been filed against you, you should do your best to defend yourself. Getting the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney would be a good place to start. More importantly, you should be fully aware of all your rights. You are, after all, presumed innocent until proven guilty, and entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

The right to remain silent

Whenever you’re questioned either prior to or during court proceedings, the accused has the right to refuse to comment or give an answer. It’s usually a way of invoking your right to avoid self-incrimination as stated in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The right to counsel

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that every criminal defendant has a right to be represented by a lawyer. If the accused cannot afford an attorney, the state will have to appoint one for him or her at no cost. It’s also important to remember that the right to legal representation is not limited to criminal trials. A person charged with a crime has the right to have a lawyer every step of the way, from the moment of arrest right through the appeals process after conviction.

The right to a trial by jury

Under most circumstances, criminal defendants have a right to a trial by jury as explicitly stated in Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and the Sixth Amendment as well. Aside from a trial by jury, the defendant also has the right to a public and speedy trial. The Supreme Court, however, has made it clear in Baldwin v. New York, 399 U.S. 66 (1970) that only serious offenses that carry a potential sentence of more than six months’ imprisonment merit a trial by jury. For petty offenses, defendants will have to settle for a trial by judge.

If you want to know more about your rights, check out the infographic below so you can better prepare for your defense with the help of a good criminal defense lawyer.

Information and infographic provided by NTL member Brian D. Sloan


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