What are my rights if I am accused of a crime?
If you are accused of a crime, you have a number of rights which are guaranteed by the United States Constitution. These rights include:
- The right to remain silent
- The right against self-incrimination
- The right to an attorney if you cannot afford one
- The right to a speedy, fair and public trial
- The right to reasonable bail
- The right to be informed of the charges against you
- The right to confront any witnesses who are testifying against you at trial
In addition, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecutor has the burden of proving, beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt, that you committed the crime in question. This also means that a criminal defendant has no obligation to prove his/her innocence. The defendant's decision to remain silent cannot be used against him/her as an inference of guilt.
There are also laws regarding search and seizure which require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before they are allowed to search a certain place at a certain time. The warrant needs to stated with specificity who, where and what is to be searched. However, there are certain circumstances where police do not need a warrant to search and/or arrest you.