Have you been given a one-way ticket through the criminal justice system? When you get yourself into legal trouble, whether you committed the crime you’re being charged with or not, it is important to know that you have civil rights. Understanding your rights when you are arrested is important for protecting yourself and getting the best possible outcome in your case.
The criminal justice system has checks and balances put in place to serve justice to criminals, but also to protect everyone’s rights — even the rights of the perpetrators of the crimes. Whether your criminal justice issue are white collar offenses like securities fraud or product liability, or something more serious, it is important that you understand your rights.
- You have the right to remain silent.
While you are being arrested, your officer will recite the “Miranda” Rights to you (if they do not, this is a big factor you should immediately tell your lawyer about. And yes, you should immediately get a lawyer. We’ll get to that later.). The first line of the “Miranda” Rights is: You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.. This stems from fifth amendment in the Bill of Rights, which our forefathers crafted after writing the Declaration of Independence to protect the freedom of every American. The fifth amendment allows you to remain silent, so that you aren’t coerced into incriminating yourself.
This might be your first time being interrogated by investigators or cops, but they have had centuries and thousands of interrogations to develop tactics that trick you into incriminating yourself. You can protect yourself by answering nothing without the presence of your lawyer. Until you have a lawyer by your side, remain courteous but do not supply any information. Even if the cop or investigator appear to be on your side. At the end of the day, their goal is to close the case, getting you to admit to the crime you are being investigated for makes their job easier.
- You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
While you might not know the tricky strategies criminal investigators use to get their guy, your lawyer does. More importantly, your lawyer knows the laws protecting your rights and how you should be treated. Having a lawyer by your side, advocating for you and protecting your rights through the criminal justice process is your single biggest Ace in the Hole. The moment the cops pick you up, demand a lawyer. Any juice the coppers try to get out of you without your attorney present should be answered with, “I’d like a lawyer please.”
If you cannot afford one, a public defender is available to work on your behalf. However, if you can afford one, look for a lawyer who specializes in your particular issue. The precedence and case law related to your particular circumstances might be fairly complicated. Using a lawyer who has years and years experience dealing with your exact kind of case will ensure that you get the best outcome possible. Your lawyer has probably seen any issues that could arise before, and will know the best course of action for handling it.
- You have a right to a fair trial, before a jury of your peers.
Your right to a fair trial is a big deal. If your rights are violated at any point in your legal process, this could be grounds for your entire case to be overthrown. At a minimum, it gives your lawyers the opportunity to appeal the ruling, and give you a second chance at a better verdict.
So what makes a trial “fair?” This is a complicated question that we could elaborate on all day long. That conversation will be saved for another day. Most importantly, having a lawyer who knows your rights and knows how to recognize any violation of them will ensure that you get a fair trial, or the chance at an appeal.
Have you gone through the criminal justice process? Do you have any other advice to add for people just beginning the criminal justice process? Please share below!