Fundamental Rights of the Accused

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Fundamental Rights of the Accused

5th Amendment Rights

Under the 5th Amendment, you have the right to refuse to answer questions, or make statements, that might incriminate you. This applies at any stage of a criminal investigation or prosecution.

The 5th Amendment also contains the Due Process Clause, which protects you from suffering certain consequences without due process of law. As the judicial interpretation of the Due Process Clause has evolved, it has been subdivided into two guarantees: substantive due process and procedural due process. Substantive due process refers to specific rights, such as rights related to free speech, voting, and association. Procedural due process ensures that the adjudication process,the way you are tried for a crime, is fair and impartial.

6th Amendment Rights

The 6th Amendment sets forth specific rights for criminal defendants, including:

  • the right to trial by jury;
  • The right to trial in a timely manner;
  • the right to be informed of the nature and cause of all accusations against you;
  • the right to confront witnesses against you;
  • the right to have legal counsel available to you; and
  • the right to compel witnesses to testify on your behalf.

8th Amendment

The 8th Amendment prohibits excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment (though it does not define either term).

The Miranda Warnings

In an expansion on the rights set forth in the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court established, in its 1966 ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, that anyone taken into custody be provided with notice of the following:

  • that they have the right to remain silent;
  • that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law;
  • that they have the right to be represented by counsel; and
  • that, if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them.

Though some of the provisions of Miranda have been weakened, it remains the law of the land.

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