Every Citizen Accused of a Crime is Entitled to these 5 Things

Being accused of a crime is a serious matter. In turn, it requires serious consideration by the accused in order to best protect their rights as a US citizen to ensure the best possible outcomes based on the charges they’re facing and their ability to create a sound defense against those accusations.

When accused of a crime, it’s essential to understand that an accusation of a crime (the charges being brought against you) is entirely different than a conviction (the judgement) of a crime. In a criminal proceeding, the accused has rights, as determined by the U.S. Constitution and The Bill of Rights. The Sixth Amendment, in particular, goes into detail regarding the five things that every citizen accused of a crime is entitled to. 

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, then we would encourage you to take a few minutes to read the below and consider the recommendations contained therein.

The right to a speedy, public trial

The right to a speedy, public trial is predicated on the idea that justice for US citizens should not be denied, delayed, nor hidden from the eyes of public scrutiny. 

Not only does a long, drawn out preamble to a trial create the potential for considerable stress upon the accused (and potentially their loved ones), but it can come at a significant expense to the taxpayer, who bears the burden of such costs for those facing criminal charges. 

What’s more, the longer such proceedings are drawn out, the greater the likelihood for tainting or limiting a potential jury pool, and in turn the more difficult it can be for the accused to defend themselves when they’ve already been tried in the court of public opinion.

The right to having an open, public trial is to protect the accused from, according the Supreme Court of the United States, “they help to ensure the criminal defendant a fair and accurate adjudication of guilt or innocence; they provide a public demonstration of fairness; they discourage perjury, the misconduct of participants, and decisions based on secret bias or partiality.” Additionally, public trials create the opportunity to educate the public on the processes inherent to our legal system, hopefully building trust in our institutions or identifying ways in which it can be improved to the benefit of us all. 

The right to effective legal counsel

Another crucial protection afforded to those accused is the right to legal counsel. And while U.S. citizens have the right to defend themselves in a court of law should they choose to, rarely, if ever is that an advisable choice. 

Under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to have a lawyer represent you in your legal defense, even if you do not have the financial means to secure one on your own.

Why is legal counsel so important when you’re accused of a crime? Well, there are numerous reasons. One is that the legal system can be an incredibly complex one to navigate on your own, and depending on the severity of your charges, can necessitate a great deal of legal filings and other proceedings that the layperson just couldn’t possibly understand on their own. 

Your legal counsel is an advisor, a trusted confidant, and your representative in the judicial system, committed to doing all they can to protect your rights. Defense attorneys also provide guidance on how to speak (or in many cases not speak) to the media, and are able to use the resources of their firm to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and construct a narrative that speaks to a jury’s sense of justice. 

The right to an impartial jury of your peers

Many have probably heard the phrase that one has the right to a jury of their peers, but what specifically does that mean? It doesn’t, of course, mean that prosecutors and defense attorneys work together to find a jury that matches each specific aspect of a defendant’s particular demographic makeup. 

What this right does strive to do is compose a jury featuring a broad cross-section of citizens in the local community in order to give the defendant the fairest trial possible.

Before the jury is officially selected a large group of random citizens will be interviewed to ensure they’re capable (legally, financially, medically, personally, or otherwise) of participating in a jury. After an initial series of questions are answered, then the potential jurors will be asked about their personal backgrounds, whether or not they have knowledge of the case, or if there are any potential biases that might prevent them from fulfilling their legal duties as a juror. 

A judge will dismiss any jurors who are incapable of setting aside their biases in order to participate in delivering a fair trial.