Criminal Defense Information Center
Constitutional Protections for the Criminal Defendant
The United States Constitution and its subsequent amendments define the scope of governmental power and reserve certain individual rights to the people. The first 10 amendments, also called the Bill of Rights, contain basic, fundamental rights of individuals on which the government may not impinge. Many of these constitutional rights provide protection to criminal defendants in the criminal-justice system. The 14th Amendment extends substantive due-process rights beyond the federal system to criminal defendants in state courts, where the vast majority of criminal trials occur.
The basic constitutional rights of the criminal defendant permeate almost every aspect of the criminal-justice process. If you have been accused of a crime, whether federal, state, tribal or local, a criminal defense attorney can explain these rights to you and help you to fight for them at every step of the way.
Here are the main federal constitutional rights guaranteed to criminal defendants in the United States to promote fair trials. Remember that these rights have been refined and interpreted by the courts, and a lawyer can advise you about each right's role in and application to your particular case.
- The right to due process of law
- The right to equal protection under the law
- The right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure
- The right against self-incrimination or being forced to testify against oneself
- The right against double jeopardy or being tried more than once for the same offense
- The right to legal counsel
- The right to a speedy, public trial
- The right to an impartial jury trial
- The right to confront witnesses against you
- The right to call supporting witnesses
- The right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
- The prohibition against ex post facto laws or laws that retroactively criminalize certain acts or retroactively increase criminal sanctions
- The right to be free from excessive fines or excessive bail
- The right to clear notice of criminal charges
- The right to a grand jury in federal felony proceedings
Contact a criminal defense lawyer
Our criminal justice system is designed through constitutional protections to provide a criminal defendant with a fair trial. If you face any phase of the process, consult an experienced attorney as early as possible to enlist an important ally in your quest to protect your legal and constitutional rights.
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