Criminal Rights 101: A Quick Guide for Knowing Your Rights

By Dixie Somers, Special for   USDR

People who are accused of a crime have rights that are afforded them under the constitution set forth by the forefathers of the United States. It is of utmost importance for everyone to understand what law enforcement officials can do and what they cannot do. Law abiding citizens are at nearly the same risk level as criminals for being caught in a confusing situation regarding the law. When you know your rights, you will be more equipped to navigate any problems like this.

Reasonable Search and Seizure
Search and seizure is a tricky business for law enforcement officials and citizens alike. The constitution protects the people from unreasonable search and seizures. That is why all states require that a search warrant be issued in order for police officers to search a home. Police officers may have the right to search a vehicle without a warrant if probable cause is present, such as the smell of alcohol emanating from the vehicle. Search warrants are only given to law enforcement officials after they have given a judge probable cause to search your property.

Attorney Rights
It is never advisable to enter a courtroom without an attorney. It is one of the biggest mistakes an accused person can make. Every person accused of a crime has a right to a lawyer when they enter the courtroom. Whether it is a hired attorney or a court appointed lawyer, it is imperative to obtain counsel prior to the court date.

Jury Trial
An accused person has the right to ask for a jury trial. Although this is not required, it may be the best choice in the case. Twelve people must agree on the verdict before a person can be found guilty or not guilty and the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. Lack of evidence to prove the case could be enough to get an acquittal from a jury.

Speedy Trial
It may be difficult to tell what a “speedy trial” means in the United States today. It is safe to say that between a year and two years is the normal amount of time to have a trial in a criminal action. According to Rod Gregory, an Edmonton DUI attorney, the accused has the right to a speedy trial so that he or she is not required to stay in jail for a lengthy period of time.

Fair Bail
Bail cannot be set at an unreasonable rate according to the crime for which the accused is charged. It is also unconstitutional to hand down excessive fines to anyone who is found guilty of a crime or to sentence a person to anything that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. That does not mean that the person will not have to pay for his or her crimes. It simply means that the person will be held accountable without overpaying for the crime they were found guilty of.

The constitution is meant to protect all the people, not just a choice few. That is why it is important to understand the rights that were afforded to every American citizen and put them into action if it is ever necessary.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.