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Understanding the Rights of Criminal Defendants

due process, San Jose criminal defense attorney

In the age of social media, many people are quick to inaccurately conclude that just because someone is accused of a crime, he or she committed the crime. In reality, people are accused of crimes they did not commit all the time. If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of an illicit substance, driving under the influence (DUI), retail theft, assault, battery, or other criminal charge, you should know that criminal defendants have certain rights guaranteed to them by law.

The Presumption of Innocence and the Right to Remain Silent

The presumption of innocence, meaning that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty, is fundamental to modern western law. If you have been accused of a crime you did not commit, take comfort in knowing that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. This means that it is the prosecution’s job to prove you committed the crime you are accused of.

A criminal defendant’s right to be assumed innocent is contained within the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The 5th Amendment guarantees criminal defendants’ right to avoid incriminating themselves and contains the Due Process Clause. The term “pleading the fifth” comes from the 5th Amendment’s rule that criminal defendants cannot “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” A criminal defendant has the right to remain silent and the prosecution cannot force the defendant to speak by calling him or her as a witness. Civil defendants, on the other hand, can be required to testify as a witness. The Due Process Clause certifies that any individual accused of a crime must be given a just and impartial trial.

The 6th Amendment Ensures Specific Rights

The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees certain rights to criminal defendants, including:

  • The right to a speedy trial;
  • The right to trial by jury (some defendants voluntarily give up this right in favor of a bench trial);
  • The right to know the criminal accusations against him or her;
  • The right to confront witnesses;
  • The right to have proficient legal counsel; and
  • The right to require witnesses to testify on his or her behalf.

Contact an Experienced Santa Clara Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

The Law Office of Wesley Schroeder has been successfully representing clients in the South San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years. Call 408-277­0377 to schedule a completely confidential consultation with a knowledgeable San Jose criminal defense attorney today.