Fundamental Trial Rights of the Defense

Posted by Chris Morales on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 @ 01:10 PM

Fundamental Trial Rights of the Defense

The Defendant’s right to Due Process of Law: Before a criminal defendant is punished they must be given a legitimate opportunity to contest the charges against them.

The Prosecution’s Burden of Proof: The defendant is presumed innocent until the moment a judge or jury finds him/her guilty. It will be up to the prosecution to provide enough evidence to convince the judge or jury that the defendant is guilty.

The Defendant’s right to Remain Silent: A defendant cannot be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. This right prevents a prosecutor from calling the defendant as a witness.

The Defendant’s right to Confront Witnesses: The 6th Amendment gives defendants the right to confront the witnesses against them. The prosecution witnesses have to come to court and be able to look the defendant in the eye and subject themselves to questioning by the defense.

The Defendant’s (and the Media’s) right to a Public Trial: The 6th Amendment guarantees public trials in criminal cases. This is an important right, because the attendance of friends, family, ordinary citizens, and the press can all help to ensure that court proceedings are conducted fairly.

A Defendant’s right to Jury Trial: The 6th Amendment guarantees jury trial in all criminal prosecutions. Since felonies and some misdemeanors carry possible maximum sentences of more than 6 months in jail, defendants are entitled to a trial by jury.

A Defendant’s right to Counsel: The 6th Amendment provides that the accused shall enjoy the right to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

A Defendant’s right to a Speedy Trial: Although the 6th Amendment allows defendants a right to a speedy trial it does not specify an exact time limit.

The Defendant’s right not to be placed in Double Jeopardy: The 5th Amendment states that no person shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. Defendants cannot be put on trial more than once for the same offense. 

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