What Are My Rights When I've Been Accused of a Crime?
Your Rights. Protected.
Your constitutional rights are inalienable and we pride ourselves in protecting them every step of the way. Are you aware of what those rights are? Familiarize yourself by reading the information below.
Presumption of Innocence
While it may not feel like it once you have been arrested and charged with a crime, our constitution demands that you are to be presumed innocent of the crime you have been accused of until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
As a criminal defendant, the prosecutor must prove the charges against you “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the highest standard of evidence that exists in the law, and is a very heavy burden. In a civil case, for instance, the standard is typically only a “preponderance of evidence.” For instance, a jury in a civil matter can return a verdict in favor of an injured plaintiff for millions of dollars if they are just ever so slightly convinced that the respondent is responsible for the injury.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof in a criminal case rests 100% with the prosecution. A defendant does not have to prove his/her innocence. For example, the prosecution could present 10 witnesses and enter 30 exhibits into evidence while the defense sits in silence and ultimately just tells the judge and jury that we have no evidence to present. If the prosecution failed to meet their burden, then the case would be dismissed despite the fact that the defense didn’t present a case. Obviously, this is not usually how things play out.
Right Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
In Washington State, you are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures by both the Fourth Amendment and by Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. If evidence is collected in violation of your rights, we will file a motion seeking to exclude the evidence from being admitted in court.
Right Against Self-Incrimination
We’ve all heard the phrase, “I plead the Fifth!” People say this when they are invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self -incrimination. No one can force you to make a statement that incriminates yourself, and this right extends to the witness stand. You should never talk to the police or anyone else about your case without your attorney present.
Anyone who has seen an episode of COPS has heard the police read someone the Miranda warning: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” Here’s a free tip: The answer to the last question is always, “NO, I want an attorney!”
You must be read your Miranda rights when the police wish to interrogate you while you are in custody; also referred to as “custodial interrogation.” Failure of the police to read these rights to you and/or their failure to stop questioning you once you invoke your rights results in a violation of your 5th Amendment rights. A skilled attorney will then move to have any statements you made in violation of your rights excluded as inadmissible.
NOTE: Any police questions that you answer pre-custody are not required to under Miranda and are admissible so be careful!
Right to an Attorney
Both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments give defendants in criminal cases the right to an attorney for most proceedings. You should always exercise this right!
Right to a Speedy Trial
You have the right to a Speedy Trial guaranteed to you by the Sixth Amendment. However, this is not always a right you will want to exercise. There are many instances when having additional time works in the favor of the defense. In order to get this additional time, you would have to waive your right to a speedy trial. On the other hand, there are also many scenarios when you would want to exercise your right to a speedy trial. Every case is different and we would need to know everything about your particular situation before we could advise you one way or another on this issue. Further, if you feel as though your rights to a speedy trial have been violated, give us a call for a free consultation.
Right to Confront Witnesses Against You
The Sixth Amendment states in part, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to…be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In other words, this guarantees your attorney the chance to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and dispute their testimony. Further, the guarantee applies to both statements made in court AND to statements made out of court that are offered as evidence in trial.
Court and Michelle Will of Will & Will, PLLC have a combined 30 years of experience and can help you today. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.