Your Constitutional Rights in a Pennsylvania Criminal Case
The government (police officers and the District Attorney) is required to uphold certain legal rights while investigating and prosecuting criminal cases. These rights fall within two (2) categories: federal and state. In a Pennsylvania criminal case, both state and federal protections apply.
4th Amendment - Search & SeizureThe right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (Also see Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 8. Security from Searches and Seizures) The 4th Amendment lays out the right of all citizens of Pennsylvania to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, this means that in order to seize a person or otherwise conduct a brief search, police officers must, at a bare minimum, have reasonable suspicion that a crime is occurring or has occurred.
5th Amendment - Double Jeopardy; Freedom from Self-Incrimination; and Due ProcessNo person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. (Also see Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 9. Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions; Section 10. Initiation of Criminal Proceedings; Twice in Jeopardy; Eminent Domain)
The 5th Amendment prevents an individual who is charged with a crime from being tried for the same offense. However, this generally applies to specific courts.
The 5th Amendment also prohibits individuals from having to testify against themselves in a criminal proceeding. State and federal courts construe this amendment to mean that you have a right to remain silent when you've been arrested and your silence cannot be used against you in a criminal prosecution. As a result of a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)), police officers are required to inform arrestees of their 5thAmendment rights. Since then, other major court decisions have established tests for when Miranda warnings have to be given, i.e., when there is a custodial interrogation.
The 5th Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. The 5th Amendment affords individuals the opportunity of a fair trial or to fair procedures and that certain rights or privileges or property cannot be taken from you except under special circumstances.
6th Amendment - Jury Trial and Assistance of CounselIn all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense. (Also see Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 6. Trial by Jury)
Because of the law's complexity and the often substantial deprivations that a criminal conviction can produce, the 6th Amendment also provides criminal defendants with a Right to Counsel. A defendant's 6th Amendment right to counsel attaches when the government initiates adversarial criminal proceedings, whether by way of formal charge, Preliminary Hearing, indictment, information, or Arraignment (United States v. Larkin, 978 F.2d 964 [7th Cir. 1992]). Unlike the right to a speedy trial, this 6th Amendment right does not arise at the moment of arrest unless the government has already filed formal charges (Kirby v. Illinois, 406 U.S. 682, 92 S. Ct. 1877, 32 L. Ed. 2d 411 ). However, defendants may assert a 5th Amendment right to consult with an attorney during Custodial Interrogation by the police, even though no formal charges have been brought and no arrest has been made (Miranda v. Arizon, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 ).
8th Amendment - Reasonable Bail, Sentences & FinesExcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. (Also see Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 13. Bail, Fines and Punishments) Excessive bail and punishments are not allowed under the 8th Amendment. In the initial stages of a criminal case, bail is particularly important, especially for family members who are concerned about getting their loved ones out of jail. Bail factors, sentences and fines are all established under Pennsylvania statutes. Oftentimes, a criminal lawyer will be able to reduce bail, and later on in the case can reduce criminal exposure.