Due process. A jury of one’s peers. The right to remain silent. Reasonable doubt. You have probably heard all of these phrases before, either many years ago in civics class, or else in pop culture (Reasonable Doubt happens to be the name of Jay-Z’s debut album), you probably have not thought much about what they mean. If you are facing felony charges, whether for a financial crime, violent crime, or any other type of felony, however, these terms become some of the most important words in your life because they are basic tenets of criminal law in the United States. Defendants in criminal cases have certain fundamental rights, including the right to be represented by an attorney. Hiring a professional attorney can help you make the strongest possible case for your innocence.
Your Constitutional Rights as a Defendant
The Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution guarantees certain rights to people accused of crimes. These rights are especially important in felony cases because felony convictions carry the possibility of incarceration, in other words, loss of liberty. Remember that the Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Taking away someone’s liberty is a serious matter, and the state cannot do it without applying the procedures specified in the Bill of Rights.
Due process: The Fifth Amendment specifies that the state cannot punish someone for a crime except after the defendant has been found guilty in a court of law. Likewise, the court cannot compel the defendant to make self-incriminating statements.
Fair trial: According to the Sixth Amendment, a defendant can request a trial by jury. The court must notify the defendant of the charges before the trial and give the defendant a chance to call witnesses, and the court must avoid unnecessary delays in starting the trial.
What About the Presumption of Innocence?
United States law assumes that any person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. The only way to prove a defendant’s guilt is through a fair trial, unless the defendant pleads guilty in a court of law, electing to forgo a trial. The prosecution must convince the jury of the defendant’s guilt. Meanwhile, the defendant or his or her legal representative must establish reasonable doubt. In other words, the defendant must convince the jury that it cannot reasonably be certain that the defendant is guilty.
Reasonable doubt can take the form of physical evidence that casts doubt on the version of events presented by the prosecution, but this is not the only way to establish reasonable doubt. For example, there might still be reasonable doubt if the prosecution presents a confession from the defendant, but the defense is able to show that the defendant was coerced into making the confession. (It warrants mention that defendants also have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning.)
Contact Madrid Law About Felony Cases
Mario Madrid takes the rights of defendants seriously. Contact Madrid Law in Houston if you are facing criminal charges.