Your Legal Rights
Unfortunately, many Americans do not have comprehensive knowledge about their constitutional rights. For most people, the first time they become aware of their rights is when they or a loved one is charged with a crime. The following is a list of those rights that all citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution when facing criminal charges:
RIGHT TO TRIAL
You have the absolute right to trial by judge or jury. In misdemeanor cases, you are entitled to a jury of six. In felony cases, you are entitled to a jury of 12. In all criminal cases, a verdict of guilt or acquittal must be unanimous.
RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT OR TO TESTIFY
You have the right to remain silent without adverse inference. In other words, a judge or jury cannot infer guilt at a trial if you exercise your right to remain silent.
RIGHT TO CONFRONT WITNESSES
You have the right to cross-examine witnesses against you or have witnesses appear on your behalf. The court will order anyone whom you request to appear in court.
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
You have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You, as the defendant, do not have to prove anything.
RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY
You have the right to an attorney at every step of a criminal proceeding. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court must appoint one at a public expense. You may be ordered to pay attorney fees at a later time.
RIGHT TO BOND
You have the right to have reasonable bond set.
CREDIT FOR JAIL TIME SERVED
Upon conviction, a criminal defendant is entitled to credit for any jail time already served.
- You may plead guilty or no contest to the charge(s). Either plea means that you give up the right to trial and all rights incident to trial and become subject to the maximum penalty for that charge.
- You may plead not guilty or stand mute. Either plea protects all your above rights and means that the case will be set for trial.
If you decide to proceed to trial, the prosecution must prove each and every element of the charged offense(s) beyond a reasonable doubt.