It doesn’t matter whether or not you have been arrested and accused of a crime, you have legal rights. Understanding these rights ensures that you don’t become the victim of unfair or illegal treatment.
- The right to remain silent
Many people find themselves in trouble as a result of what they have said when questioned by law enforcement officers. Things you say while in custody can be misinterpreted and used to convict you of a crime – in some cases even a crime that you did not commit. You can protect yourself by simply exercising the right to remain silent. Only answer questions after consulting with your lawyer if you are being questioned about criminal activity.
- Your right to a lawyer
To ensure that you don’t fall victim to an unfair or unjust conviction, the law gives you the right to be represented by an attorney. If you can’t afford an attorney, the government is required to provide you with a defense attorney if you ask for one.
- The right to refuse unreasonable searches
Police may request to search your home, car or office if they feel that they can find evidence of a crime. However, in most situations, you have the right to refuse the search unless they present you with a search warrant. Unless there is a clear legal exception, police require a search warrant or your consent in order to search your home, car or other property.
- The right not to be detained unreasonably
If you are arrested on suspicion, you can only be detained briefly if there is reason to believe that you are involved in the crime. However, if the officer has not stated that you are under arrest or the police were detaining you and are not going to file charges, you have the right to leave. If the officer acknowledges that you can leave, you should. However, if the officer confirms that you are under arrest, then you should not resist.
- You should have a fair trial
Unless you have chosen to plead guilty for a crime that you have been charged with, you have the right to a fair trial before a jury of your peers. This means that the government has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This helps to ensure that innocent people are not convicted of crimes that they did not commit.
- The right to tell your side
You have the right to tell your side of the story in a court of law. If you choose to do so, you can testify on your own behalf.
Many people are convicted unnecessarily because they did not fully understand their rights. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney representing you will ensure that your rights are not violated.