KNOWING YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
The Constitutions of the United States and Massachusetts each
guarantee our citizens certain basic rights, including the right to
a lawyer, the privilege against self-incrimination (i.e., the right to
remain silent), the right to be free from unreasonable searches
and seizures, etc. In matters of criminal law and investigation,
you must know your rights.
Right to Remain Silent: You are not required to talk to the
police when questioned about a crime. 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 person, as well as the guilty. Anything you say likely will
be tape recorded or videotaped with or without your knowledge.
(Do NOT discuss facts of an alleged crime with anyone including
family members. There is no privilege to protect your statements
to these persons).
Right to Counsel: The Sixth Amendment gives you the right to
have counsel before giving any statements or submitting to
questioning. You NEED a lawyer BEFORE you make any
statements to the police. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court
is required to appoint an attorney.
Right to be Free From Unreasonable Searches or
Seizures: Do NOT allow any search of your body, home,
garage, business, computer, car, boat or other dwelling or
conveyance or property, unless an officer presents proper
credentials and a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment
protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. 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 the
papers before granting permission. 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 (or even a stranger) may have
placed or left contraband or other evidence of crime in or on
your property. NEVER allow a search without a warrant. If asked
whether it will be okay to search, just say, "No."
Right to Due Process of Law: 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 Under the Law: This right is
intended to give all persons, regardless of race, creed,
nationality, religion, gender, the same protections or rights. In
other words, no person or class of persons shall be denied the
protections enjoyed by other persons or classes in like
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. Your trial must be open to the public (except in certain
Right to Subpoena Witnesses: If you go to preliminary hearing
or trial, you have the right to compulsory process or to subpoena
witnesses regardless of whether the witness agrees to
cooperate. If you serve the witness with process, they must
attend hearings and give testimony (thus the right of confronting
Right to a Trial by Jury: You are entitled to a jury trial, unless
both you and the government agree to a trial before the judge. If
you demand a trial, a jury of six or twelve qualified persons must
be empanelled to hear your case.
Right to a Unanimous Verdict: To be convicted of a crime, all
jurors must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In most
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 Subsequent Trials (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
Right to Appeal: You have an appeal of right if you are
convicted at trial. If you enter into a plea bargain or if you simply
plead guilty, you may or may not waive certain rights to appeal.
BOGLE & CHANG, LLC
Copyright © 2010 Bogle & Chang, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Blog: "Knowing Your Constitutional Rights"