What Are Some of Your Basic Constitutional Rights in a Criminal Case?

The American criminal justice system is responsible for protecting the rights of the innocent, and in a criminal case, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Under the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution guarantees basic freedoms for anyone being prosecuted:

  • Fourth Amendment. The right against unreasonable search and seizure means that law enforcement authorities for the most part cannot search your home without first showing probable cause and obtaining a search warrant. Warrants must be specific, describing the location of the search and the specific individuals or property to be seized. There are certain limited exceptions when authorities can search without a warrant.
  • Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury when accused of a felony. A grand jury has the task of determining whether probable cause exists to warrant a trial. You also have the right against double jeopardy, which means no second trial can be convened for the same crime. The amendment gives you the right to not testify against yourself ─ no compelled self-incrimination. Also you have the right to due process of law. Due process of law is your right to a fair trial and to defend yourself before being deprived of life, liberty or property. Your right to due process also applies to state government prosecution.
  • Sixth Amendment. Under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to a speedy public trial, to an impartial jury of the state and district where the alleged crime was committed and to be informed of the accusation. You also have the right to confront witnesses who testify against you, to have witnesses testify in your favor and to receive assistance from an attorney for your defense.

When you face criminal accusations, you should obtain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled law firm can protect your rights, employ effective strategies, find holes in the prosecution's case and work toward the best possible outcome.