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Your Right to a Fair Trial

Posted by attorney Ann Fitz

An Overview of Criminal Defense

In recent decades, the likelihood of an arrest leading to a conviction has generally risen. Some defendants think that they can "beat the system" on their own. Those who have been through the criminal court system know better: having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is the best way to prevent becoming another statistic and to avert the impact of a criminal conviction.

The criminal justice system can be a very frustrating experience that is difficult to navigate for those who are unfamiliar with the territory. One misplaced step can result in a lengthy jail sentence and a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. That's why it is so important to have the right criminal defense attorney fighting on your side, protecting your rights every step of the way.

Constitutional Protections for the Criminal Defendant

The United States Constitution and its subsequent amendments define the scope of governmental power and reserve certain individual rights to the people. The first 10 amendments, also called the Bill of Rights, contain basic, fundamental rights of individuals on which the government may not impinge. Many of these constitutional rights provide protection to criminal defendants in the criminal justice system. The Fourteenth Amendment extends substantive due process rights beyond just the federal system to criminal defendants in state courts, where the vast majority of criminal trials occur.

Fundamental Rights

Here are the main federal constitutional rights guaranteed to criminal defendants in the United States to promote fair trials. Remember that these rights have been refined and interpreted by the courts and an attorney can advise you about their role in and application to your particular case.

  • The right to due process of law
  • The right to equal protection under the law
  • The right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure
  • The right against self-incrimination or being forced to testify against oneself
  • The right against double jeopardy or being tried more than once for the same offense
  • The right to legal counsel
  • The right to a speedy, public trial
  • The right to an impartial jury trial
  • The right to confront witnesses against you
  • The right to call supporting witnesses
  • The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
  • The prohibition against ex post facto laws or laws that retroactively criminalize certain acts or increase criminal sanctions
  • The right to be free from excessive fines or excessive bail
  • The right to clear notice of criminal charges
  • The right to a grand jury in federal felony proceedings.

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