When most people think about the criminal justice system, they think of defendants in a negative light instead of remembering that people who are facing criminal charges have specific rights. Defendants must be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.
In a way, the criminal justice system makes it hard to remember that principle. This is because of the way that bail and the criminal process works. Still, anyone who is facing criminal charges should remember that they do have rights that must be respected. Here are a few of the most notable ones.
Right to trial
People think that all criminal defendants have the right to a jury trial. This isn’t true. Criminal defendants simply have the right to a trial, not necessarily in front of a jury. Very minor crimes, such as those that don’t have a potential prison sentence, won’t usually qualify for a jury trial. In some cases, those cases will go before the judge in a bench trial. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take them seriously. In fact, a bench trial might be more difficult because of the depth of knowledge the judge has regarding the law and legal matters. It is also known that defendants have the right to a speedy trial. However, the Constitution doesn’t provide specific criteria for what is considered speedy.
Right to have access to an attorney
All criminal defendants have the right to consult with an attorney. Exercising this right isn’t an admission of guilt. You can have an attorney with you when you are questioned. You also have the right to consult with friends, family members and an attorney before you are required to enter a plea in a criminal matter. You can invoke the right to an attorney by telling the law enforcement officer that you want your attorney present. Make this perfectly clear and stop answering questions or providing statements.
Right to remain silent
You do have the right to not say anything to police officers about the criminal matter. This can’t be construed as you admitting you did the crime of which you are accused. It is a good idea to invoke your right to remain silent because you never know how someone will interpret statements you are making. This means that even an innocent statement might be twisted and used in the case presented against you in court.