Standing Up For Your Rights

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Be Empowered: Know Your Rights

On Behalf of | Nov 18, 2017 | Constitutional Law, Practical Tips

The Constitutions of the United States and Oklahoma each guarantee us certain basic rights, including the right to a lawyer, the privilege against self-incrimination (the right to remain silent), and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. When it comes to criminal law and investigations, you must know your rights.

Right to Legal Counsel: The Sixth Amendment gives you the right to have counsel from an attorney before giving any statements or submitting to questioning. Exercise your rights. You NEED an attorney BEFORE you make any statements to the police. After consulting with an attorney, you may decide not to give any statement at all – which is your right.  If you cannot afford counsel, the court is required to appoint an attorney for you.

Right to Remain Silent: This is a right YOU control. You are NOT required to talk to the police when questioned about a crime or for ANY OTHER REASON. Exercise your rights. Do NOT give a statement. The Fifth Amendment and the Miranda decision of the Supreme Court generally state that the Fifth Amendment protects the innocent man, as well as the guilty. Anything you say likely will be tape recorded or videotaped with or without your knowledge. Also, do not discuss facts of an alleged crime with family members, friends, co-workers, spouses, children,  etc.

Right to be Free From Unreasonable Searches or Seizures: The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unless an officer presents proper credentials and a search warrant, do NOT allow any search of your body, home, garage, business, computer, car, boat or other dwelling or property. ONLY if the police have a valid search warrant is it appropriate to give permission to search. If there is a warrant, ask to read it. Then ask the officers if you may watch as they search and ask to call your lawyer before the search. You never know whether your spouse, children or perhaps a friend or acquaintance (even a stranger) may have placed or left contraband or other evidence of a crime in or on your property. If you’re asked whether it will be okay to search, say “no” and call attorney Stephen Cale at 918-771-7314.

Right to Bail: Generally, you have the right to a reasonable bail if arrested. The primary issue should be whether you are a risk of flight or a danger to the community. In many counties, there is a standard bail or bond schedule which is generally applied, but bond is occasionally denied. In many other counties, if you post bail the judges generally will not appoint counsel on the theory that if you can afford to bail out of jail, then you can afford an attorney.

Right to Subpoena Witnesses and Documents: If you demand a trial, you have the right to subpoena witnesses, regardless of whether the witness agrees to cooperate. You also have the right to subpoena documents. If you serve the witnesses with process, they must attend hearings and give testimony. You have a limited right to subpoena witnesses or documents at a preliminary hearing.

Right to a Speedy and Public Trial: The Sixth Amendment guarantees a “speedy trial” without unreasonable delays. This does not mean that you receive an immediate trial, but factors are analyzed to determine whether the delay is reasonable and whether there is any prejudice caused by an unreasonable delay. Also, your trial must be open to the public (except in certain juvenile settings).

Right to a Trial by Jury: You are entitled to a jury trial unless both you and the State/Government agree to a trial before the judge (a “bench trial”). If you demand a trial, a six-person jury (for misdemeanors) or a 12-person jury (for felonies) must be impaneled to hear your case.

Right to a Unanimous Verdict: To be convicted, the jury must unanimously find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In felony cases, twelve people must agree that you are guilty of the crime charged. Otherwise, you cannot be found guilty. If the jury reaches an impasse, the jury may be hung or split. Under these circumstances, you can be tried again.

Right to be Free from “Re-Trial” (Double Jeopardy): The Fifth Amendment states that no person be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. If the jury unanimously agrees that you are not guilty, then you cannot be tried again for that crime.

Right to Due Process: Generally speaking, this means that you must be given the opportunity of a fair trial or to fair procedures and that certain rights or privileges or property cannot be taken from you except under special circumstances.

Right to Equal Protection: This right is intended to give all persons, regardless of race, creed, nationality, religion or gender, the same protections or rights. In other words, no person or class of people shall be denied the protections enjoyed by others or classes in like circumstances.