What Are My Rights as a Criminal Defendant?

Photo of arrestWe live in a country with a very strict legal system. The foundation of which is the idea that you are “innocent until proven guilty.” Arguably the most important or your rights as a criminal defendant, that phrase means you are protected from being punished for a crime you didn’t commit. It’s not the only right you have after you’ve been arrested, though.

What Are My Rights as a Criminal Defendant?

You have the right to:

  • Remain Silent – The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to remain silent throughout the entire process of a criminal case. Neither the prosecution nor the judge has the power to force you to testify during your case.
  • An Attorney – Not only do you have the right to legal representation, you have the right to adequate legal representation. That means you are entitled to a defense lawyer who knows what he’s doing, and does a good job at it. (Important note: Doing a good job is not the same as winning. You may not call an attorney who loses your case inadequate representation.)
  • A Trial – As per the Sixth Amendment, you have a right to a speedy, public trial by jury. The trial is one of the most important rights you have as an American citizen. It allows you a chance to properly defend yourself and puts everything out in the open so that your rights are protected.
  • Confront Witnesses – Essentially, the right to confront witnesses means that you have a right to cross-examine anyone who gives testimony against you. The prosecution cannot use written or recorded testimony from witnesses to have you convicted.
  • Not Being Tried for the Same Crime Twice – More commonly known as “double jeopardy,’ this right protects you from being retried for a crime.

As an American, you are afforded numerous legal rights by the constitution; more than we’ve listed here. Most people don’t even know all of their rights, which means they would have a hard time adequately defending themselves in court. A criminal defense attorney has extensive knowledge and can help you find the best solutions to your legal troubles.


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