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Rights of the Accused

Rights of the Accused

Rights of the Accused

In our justice system, people accused of crimes are presumed innocent until found guilty. To find a person guilty, the state must prove that the accused committed to crime he or she is charged with beyond a reasonable doubt.

To preserve these principles, the Bill of Rights, part of the U.S. Constitution, grants those accused of crimes certain rights, like the right to remain silent, the right to a public, speedy trial, and the right to a jury. Most of these rights are enshrined in the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Some of these are stated in your Miranda warnings. However, in many cases, it's up to you to take advantage of those rights. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights and help you keep from losing them.

Rights of Tempe Defendants

Tempe criminal defense lawyer James E. Novak is an experienced attorney who will fight for your rights. James E. Novak is an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a background as a Maricopa County prosecutor, so he understands all sides of the law. James E. Novak will zealously defend your constitutional rights. If you've been charged with a crime, call the Law Office of James E. Novak today at (480) 413-1499 to set up a free consultation to discuss your charges.

James E. Novak is proud to represent clients throughout the Tempe area and Maricopa County, including Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix, Chandler, Scottsdale and East Valley.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

You cannot be forced to be a witness against yourself at any point in your prosecution, from the time you are being investigated to the time you are on trial. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution secures this right. This is commonly known as "pleading the Fifth," and it is an important right added to the Constitutional because, in colonial times, people could be forced to confess to crimes, even those they did not commit. You can refuse to testify in court, and also refuse to answer questions to police officers and prosecutors if you are a suspect.  For instance, if you are a suspect in a robbery and are asked about your whereabouts during the alleged crime, you can simply decline to answer. Your silence cannot be used against you as evidence in court.

Police do not have to inform you that you are a suspect when questioning you. If police are asking questions, you may ask "Am I a suspect in any alleged crime you are investigating?" If they answer anything other than "No," feel free to reply to any further questions that you do not wish to speak without your attorney present. An attorney can be with you during questioning and advise you of what questions you should answer and for which you should invoke your right to remain silent.

You Have the Right to a Jury of Your Peers

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to an impartial jury. The authors of the Constitution did not want judges or other officials making the ultimate decision on criminal convictions, and believed calling in a panel of community members would be more fair.

In Arizona, juries may consist of either eight or twelve people, depending on the seriousness of the allegation, and decisions must be unanimous. Generally, a large group of people will receive jury summons, and it is their responsibility to report to duty unless they have a valid excuse. The lawyers then question the potential jurors in a process called voir dire to determine their impartiality. Anyone who knows the defendant, victim, witnesses or lawyers, has personal knowledge of the events in the allegation, has a pre-existing opinion about the situation or has biases that would prevent them from being fair may be struck and will not serve on the jury.

If you do not wish to be tried by a jury, you may be tried by the judge. This is called a bench trial.

You Have the Right to a Speedy, Public Trial

The Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right to a trial that is both "speedy" and public. The Constitution does not define "speedy," however, and infrequently do criminal proceedings happen in a way that most people would call "speedy." The purpose of the right is to ensure that people are not incarcerated indefinitely without charges or, if charged, without a trial. In Maricopa County, the accused must be brought to an initial hearing within 24 hours of arrest. The judge in your case is supposed to then ensure that there are no unnecessary delays, although the whole process often takes months.

Your trial will be public, which ensures that your friends and family will be able to stand with you and that the process is transparent. You also have a right to confront witnesses against you, meaning that they must testify in front of you and you or your lawyer have a right to cross-examine them.

In some cases involving child sexual abuse, the judge may order the trial to be closed to the public, and the child witnesses may be allowed to testify via closed circuit television.

You Have the Right Not to be Placed in Double Jeopardy

The Fifth Amendment has the right of defendants to not be placed in double jeopardy, meaning that you cannot be put on trial twice for the same crime. This right attaches, or becomes active, once the first witness is sworn in. After that, you cannot be charged for the same crime for the same event in the same court. However, if you are charged with a federal crime that is also a state crime and the federal charge is dismissed, you may still be charged in state court.

You Have the Right to an Attorney

In the Sixth Amendment, you are guaranteed a right to have counsel. Your criminal defense attorney must be licensed by the state of Arizona and, if a federal case, must be admitted to practice before the court in question. You have a right to adequate representation. This means someone who is knowledgeable about the law and performs up to certain standards, and will defend you vigorously. If you cannot afford a lawyer and your charge could result in prison for longer than six months, the court must appoint a lawyer to you.

Miranda Warnings in Tempe

In a 1966 case that came out of Maricopa County, Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that police officers must warn people they arrest of their rights. In Arizona, those warnings include:

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.
  • If you are not a United States citizen, you may contact your country's consulate prior to any questioning.
  • If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney.
  • Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

If the police fail to give you your Miranda warnings, the charges may be dismissed.

The Law Office of James E. Novak | Mesa Criminal Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with any crime, you may invoke your right to an attorney, and your attorney can help you defend your rights. James E. Novak is an experienced Tempe criminal defense lawyer who will zealously guard your constitutional rights. Call the Law Office of James E. Novak today at (480) 413-1499 to set up a free consultation to discuss any criminal charge you might face.