A CRIMINAL DEFENDANT HAS THE RIGHT:
TO REMAIN SILENT
A defendant has the right to remain silent and cannot be forced to say anything against their interests. It is the burden of the prosecution to prove a defendant's guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and his silence cannot be used against him. This right is sometimes extended to a defendant's spouse. In some circumstances, a defendant's spouse cannot be forced to testify.
TO AN ATTORNEY
A defendant has the right to an attorney throughout legal proceedings. If a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one - usually someone from the public defender's office. However, at the end of the case, the defendant may be required to pay all or part of the cost for that attorney.
TO A SPEEDY TRIAL
A defendant has a right to a speedy, public, trial by a jury of 12 impartial jurors. If the defendant chooses to waive a jury trial, the trial can be held before a judge instead of a jury, but it is the defendant's choice.
The defendant is presumed to be innocent throughout the proceedings and the jurors must each be convinced of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before entering a verdict of guilty. Sometimes it appears that a defendant is not given a speedy trial - like O.J. Simpson whose trial concluded more than a year after his arrest. This often happens because a defendant chooses to delay his own trial, called "waiving time". During the delay, the defendant's attorney will make discovery or other motions, subpoena records, interview witnesses or take similar actions to prepare a defense.
TO CONFRONT WITNESSES
A defendant has the right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses testifying against him. The defendant will generally also be allowed to offer evidence of the witnesses credibility and the challenge the truthfulness of the witness. A "secret witness" may be allowed to give the police tips as to the whereabouts of criminal activity, but the witness cannot testify secretly before a jury.
TO PRODUCE EVIDENCE
A defendant has the right to subpoena favorable witnesses and evidence to court. The defendant has the right to present the witnesses and evidence in his own defense and the right to testify in his own defense.
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Copyright © 2001, Law Offices of George A. Boyle