U.S. Constitutional RIGHTS of the Accused
EVERYONE should KNOW their RIGHTS
The average American, law-abiding citizen, may doubt there is much reason to be fully aware of their rights, should they ever be accused of and arrested for a crime. Understandable but not sensible or beneficial. Our Constitutional rights, all of them, should and must be so valuable and treasured by each of us, as to warrant serious study. Understand that the vast majority of us only think we understand our rights. The reality is, most of us seriously need some in-depth research into what may one day save us or a family member, a whole lot of legal grief.
"It's absolutely crazy to ever think I would be accused of a crime, not to mention, be arrested!!" Quite possibly true, my friend, but not a valid reason to remain ignorant of our inalienable rights. There should never come a time in our life we are denied any right we are entitled to, due to ignorance of the facts. This is tantamount to relinquishing our United States of America citizenship.
Every day in this country, people are charged with committing or of being involved in a crime. From the moment this occurs and the handcuffs are placed around your wrists, every single move you make and each word you utter, "can and will be held against you in a court of law."
If you cannot fully appreciate the impact of that statement made by thousands of arresting officers across our country each and every day during tens of thousands of arrests, please continue reading.
Whether guilty or totally innocent, it should be clear to you how vital it is to know your rights under these circumstances.
Your Right to Due Process of Law
The courts, both State and Federal have interpreted the Fifth Amendment guarantee that you shall not "be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." This is in combination with the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection, to give every American citizen a clear-cut and powerful group of rights, should he be accused of a crime.
If placed under arrest, law enforcement must clearly verbalize your Miranda Rights (a.k.a The Miranda Warning) and be certain that it is fully understood by you. (Note: It is not mandated that one must be Mirandized at the actual moment of arrest, however, before any questioning/interrogations, The Miranda Warning MUST be given.)
History of The Miranda Warning
Miranda v Arizona/1963
In 1963, a young man from Arizona, Ernesto Miranda, was accused of kidnapping and raping an 18-year-old, mildly retarded woman. During questioning by police, Ernesto confessed to the crime. He was given no information of rights of any kind. He was not aware that he did not have to speak nor that he could have a lawyer present. At trial, his lawyer attempted to have the confession thrown out, but his motion was denied. In 1966 the case went before the Supreme Court, which ruled that the statements made to police could not be used as evidence, since Miranda had not been advised of his rights. Ultimately, Miranda's conviction was thrown out, but he did not become a free man. The police had other evidence aside from the confession. Miranda was tried a second time and convicted again. After his eventual release from prison, Miranda was killed in a barroom brawl in 1976.
The Miranda Warning was created, documented and enacted so that never again would a criminal suspect, arrested by the police, be questioned without being fully advised of his rights, prior to questioning.
The actual Miranda Warning is as follows:
You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions. Anything you do say, may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an Attorney before speaking to the police and to have an Attorney present during questioning, now or in the future. If you cannot afford an Attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without an Attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you speak to an Attorney. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you? (a response is needed from the arrested individual) Knowing and understanding your rights, are you willing to answer my questions without an Attorney present? Pay attention! Repeat, "are you willing to answer my questions without an Attorney present?"
We are all quite aware that any and all defense attorneys will tell you firmly and without hesitation, the answer to that last question is a loud and clear,
"No !" Defense attorneys across our nation would love nothing better than for every man, woman and child to memorize and etch into their brain, the vital need for silence until and unless you have counsel.
In addition, if you are ever arrested:
As stated, law enforcement must inform you of your rights as well as give you the opportunity to phone a relative, friend or Attorney. Sound advice here once again. Forget the relative and the friend and opt for the attorney.
You have the right to a lawyer's service's and need not speak a word to anyone prior to consulting with that Attorney. If you cannot afford an Attorney, one will be appointed for you.
You have the right to know the charges against you. Yes, you do! Read that statement again if you must. Let it sink in. Television programs would have us thinking that the police may hold you while simultaneously withholding the reason you are being detained. This is not true.
You have the right to a reasonably prompt hearing before a magistrate. If you are held for trial, you have the right to have reasonable bail set as security for your release, (except for particular crimes or at the discretion of the court.)
You have the right to a reasonably prompt jury trial, the right to confront and cross-examine your accusers and to call witnesses on your own behalf.
You cannot be tried twice for the same offense (Double Jeopardy) and if convicted, you cannot be subjected to cruel or unusual punishment.
Any and all rights may be waived by you, but needless to say, only a fool would waive a right allowed him/her for their own benefit and protection.
Another clearly foolish move that is sometimes requested by the accused is to represent himself in court, a.k.a. a pro se defense. Although the right to defend one's self does exist, all efforts are made by the Judge and defense Attorneys to dissuade an individual from seeking to insist upon this right. Our Justice System, however being far superior in every way from any other in the world, is also extremely complex & powerful yet delicate. Nothing can replace and/or substitute for a good, licensed Attorney with the knowledge and expertise needed to defend someone, most especially in criminal cases. Many a defendant has tried a pro se defense and has failed miserably.
Police Officers, Attorneys, Judges, our peers who make up a Jury, witnesses and various professionals who work within the court system are.....Human Beings. Human beings are capable of all things, good and bad, right and wrong. On the negative side, all humans are capable of lies, manipulation, withholding information, mistakes, crooked politics and false memories and statements. This is simply a fact of reality.
This fact as well as numerous others are more than enough reason to encourage each and every American to learn and understand their rights.