Like most people, you have undoubtedly heard an actor on television or the big screen reading a suspect his rights, but do you really know your constitutional rights? Hearing someone recite the required Miranda warnings in a movie is hardly sufficient if you one day find yourself in a position where you need to truly understand your rights. Before you assume that as a law abiding citizen you will never be in that position, remember that law enforcement officers are human – they make mistakes. You could be wrongly accused, the victim of mistaken identity, or find yourself under suspicion by association. A basic understanding of your constitutional rights could come in handy someday if you find yourself interacting with the police for any reason.
Both the United States Constitution and the California Constitution afford you certain rights that cannot be taken away from you. Over the years, the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, has whittled away at some of these rights and/or interpreted them narrowly; however, the rights remain yours. Some of the more important rights, along with what they mean to you, include:
- Right against self-incrimination – You cannot be made to say anything or do anything that would amount to evidence that could be used against you. Your right to remain silent stems from this right. You must, however, invoke your right to remain silent. The police may continue to ask you questions as long as you keep quiet, but once you affirmatively say “I invoke my 5th Amendment right to remain silent” or something similar, they must respect that right.
- Right to confront and cross examine witness against you – For the most part, anyone can accuse you of anything. You, however, have the right to confront and cross-examine anyone who has accused you of a criminal offense or who has offered testimony against you.
- Right to an attorney – In a criminal prosecution, you have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one for you. Like your right to remain silent though, you must ask for an attorney.
- Right to a jury of your peers – You have the right to have a jury of 6 or 12 people from the community decide whether or not you are guilty of the charges against you instead of a judge making the decision. You also have the right to help select the jury during “voir dire.”
Each of these rights is important to you should you find yourself a suspect or a defendant in a criminal case or prosecution. You also have additional rights that can be explained to you by an experienced California criminal defense attorney. Call criminal defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo at (619) 232-5122 today to schedule your free and confidential consultation.