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6 Important Rights Criminal Defendants Have In The U.S.


Everyone in the U.S. has rights, including criminal defendants. This is true regardless of whether a criminal defendant is innocent or guilty or has a criminal history. If you are facing criminal charges, it is crucial that you understand the rights that the U.S. Constitution grants the accused. When you know the rights you have as a criminal defendant, you can take the necessary steps to protect your rights. This article explains six of the most important rights criminal defendants have in the United States of America.

Right #1: Right to an Attorney

Criminal defendants have the right to a criminal defense attorney. As a criminal suspect, you have the right to an attorney even if you cannot afford to hire an attorney. According to the U.S. Constitution and the New York State constitution, if a criminal defendant cannot afford an attorney, the state should appoint a defense attorney for the defendant.

Right #2: Right To Remain Silent

This right is granted under the Fifth Amendment to the nation’s Constitution. This law is designed to protect a person who is being questioned by the police. Also, this right is intended to protect defendants who choose not to be witnesses in their cases. If you decide you do not want to testify in your case, the prosecutor cannot force you to be a witness. The right to remain silent can help you avoid making self-incriminating statements.

Right #3: Right to a Speedy Trial

In the United States of America, criminal defendants have the right to a speedy trial, which means a defendant cannot be held in jail without trial for an extended period of time. If the court determines that a criminal defendant was held in jail without a trial for an extended period of time, the case could be thrown out.

Right #4: Right to a Jury Trial

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives defendants the right to a jury trial. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that this right only applies in cases involving “serious” offenses. This right cannot be invoked in a case involving a petty crime. For purposes of the right to a jury trial, a serious crime is one that carries a potential penalty of more than six months in prison.

Right #5: Right to a Public Trial

The Sixth Amendment to the nation’s Constitution also grants criminal defendants the right to a public trial. This is crucial as having your friends and family in the courtroom can ensure that the government abides by the law. However, depending on the type of criminal charges you are facing, the court can bar the public from attending your case. For example, the public may be barred from attending your case if you are being accused of sexual assault against a child.

Right #6: Right To Confront Witnesses

Criminal defendants have the right to cross-examine witnesses. Usually, it is defense attorneys who ask witnesses questions during the court case. Prosecutors are barred from proving a criminal defendant’s guilt using written or oral hearsay statements from non-testifying witnesses. A prosecutor can only prove a criminal defendant’s guilt using verbal or written hearsay if the court concludes that the hearsay is non-testimonial.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re facing criminal charges, don’t hesitate to contact our skilled NYC criminal defense attorney, Mark I. Cohen, at 917-414-8585 to schedule a consultation and discuss your case. We can help you protect your rights.



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"... Mr. Cohen's effort... in everything he has done before the Court, is A-Plus... [R]ecently, in another case... [before me], the result he achieved for his client... was quite impressive." Honorable Kenneth M. Karas, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.


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