The U.S. Constitution is the highest legal authority in the land which means that while individual states may make their own laws, a law cannot violate or impinge on your Constitutional rights. If you ever find yourself a defendant in a criminal prosecution, you will find yourself relying on the protection afforded to you by those rights. A Murfreesboro criminal lawyer explains three Constitutional rights you need to know and understand.
Your Constitutional Right against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures can be found in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which reads as follows:
“The 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.”
The strength of the protection afforded by the 4th amendment has been watered down somewhat by the courts that have interpreted it over the years; however, it general, it stands for the concept that a law enforcement officer cannot conduct a search of your person, property, or things without first obtaining a warrant that must be based on probable cause. Probable cause, in turn, requires a logical belief, supported by facts and circumstances, that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed or that evidence of a crime will be found at the location to be searched.
Your Constitutional Right to Remain Silent
Your right to remain silent is found in the broader right against self-incrimination enumerated in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads as follows:
“No 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.” (Emphasis added)
With the exception of the need to answer questions regarding your identity, your right to remain silent means just what it sounds like. During an encounter with a law enforcement officer, you do not have to answer questions nor speak to the police if you do not want to do so. Moreover, you can invoke, or waive, your 5th Amendment right at any point during an investigation or trial. For example, if you originally agree to answer questions from a police officer but soon begin to feel uncomfortable doing so, you may invoke your right to remain silent at that time. If you also request an attorney at that time, a police officer is required to stop questioning you until you have an attorney present. Conversely, if you originally exercise your right to remain silent, but later decide it is in your best interest to cooperate, you may waive your right and answer questions at that time. If a law enforcement officer violates your right to remain silent, anything you said following that violation will likely be inadmissible at a later trial as a result of that violation.
Your Constitutional Right to a Trial by Jury
Your right to a trial by jury is found in the 6th Amendment which reads as follows:
“In 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 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 defence.”
Your right to a trial by jury is an absolute right guaranteed to you in the U.S. Never waive that right without first consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney. There are two circumstances in which you may decide to waive your right to a trial by jury. The first is if you plan to enter into a guilty plea agreement with the State of Tennessee (or the U.S. government if it is a federal prosecution) that has been negotiated between your attorney and the prosecuting attorney. The other reason you might need to waive your right to a trial by jury is if you decide to allow a judge to determine your fate. Known as a “bench trial” or “trial by judge,” it simply means that at the end of your trial it will be the judge who decides if you are guilty or not guilty instead of a jury.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer
If you have been accused of a criminal offense in Tennessee, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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