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Defendants’ Rights: Protections for the Criminally Accused

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Defendants’ Rights: Protections for the Criminally Accused

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Defendant’s Rights in Texas

The Constitution of the United States guarantees all of its citizens the right to a speedy and fair trial with a jury comprised of their fellow citizen. When a person is charged with a crime in the Lone Star State, they are granted certain rights that must be honored in order to ensure the due process of law.
Every citizen ought to be familiar with these rights in case they or someone they care about finds themselves on the wrong side of the law. If you have been charged with a crime, you owe it to yourself to know and understand these important rights.

What Rights do Defendants Have?

While there are a very large number of rights that every criminal defendant is guaranteed, some of these protections rank among the most important. Also, some of these rights are invoked or used more frequently than others. These rights include:
  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to reasonable bail
  • The right to avoid self-incrimination
  • The right to a competent attorney
Each one of these rights is essential for any defendant who hopes to get a fair and just trial. Without the use of these rights, the American judicial system would quickly fall apart. Many of these rights were developed and added to the Constitution over time in order to correct failings in the justice system. Therefore, neglecting them or intentionally violating them may be grounds for a retrial, a mistrial, dropped charges or an overturned conviction.
Many cases that ended in convictions have been overturned after it was discovered that a defendant’s rights had been abused. They really are that important!

The Right to a Speedy Trial

While there is no defined requirement for how long a trial should last or how soon it should begin after charges are filed, this right is included to ensure that defendants do not have to wait an unreasonably long time to get their chance at justice.
For example, if John is arrested on a warrant for unpaid parking tickets, he should not have to wait in jail for three months before he can get a trial. Also, the trial cannot be dragged out for an unreasonable amount of time. This right also includes a provision that the trial must be public unless it is necessary to be private. This means that the defendant cannot be subjected to secret proceedings that might infringe on his rights.

The Right to Reasonable Bail

When a person is jailed after being charged with a criminal offense, they will often be given the opportunity to pay a bail amount. This allows them to leave custody and await their court date in their own home. While a judge may choose to deny or revoke bail in certain cases, most defendants must be given a bail amount that is in accordance with the severity of their criminal charge.
To use the example of John again, if John is arrested for unpaid parking tickets and the judge sets his bail at $10,000, John’s attorney may claim that the bail amount is unreasonable. A $10,000 bail is extremely high for a relatively minor offense. This right ensures that defendants are protected from bail amounts that may be set in order to force them to remain in custody until their court date.

The Right to Avoid Self-Incrimination

Hundreds of years ago, criminal defendants were sometimes required to give testimony or evidence on their own behalf that could be considered self-incriminating. This means that they could be forced to admit their own guilt in order for a trial to proceed. The Constitution forbids this practice.
This right is commonly expressed in the “right to remain silent” and “pleading the fifth“. In effect, a defendant does not have to provide information to the police if they do not wish to do so. In addition, they are not required to give testimony that could potentially cause them to appear guilty to a jury.

The Right to a Competent Attorney

Many people are familiar with a clause of the Miranda warning that is given to certain suspects which reads “you have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you.” This right ensures that all defendants will be given a fair chance to defend themselves in a court of law.
Sometimes legal representation may be more than a defendant can afford. In these cases, a defendant has the right to be assigned a public defender if they so choose.

Know Your Rights!

This list does not comprise the entirety of a defendant’s constitutional rights. The best way to become familiar with your rights and to ensure that they are fully enforced is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as charges are filed.

Have you been charged with a crime in Texas? Attorney Greg Tsioros has the experience and knowledge to help you navigate the complicated legal system and protect your rights. Contact his office today at 832-752-5972.

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