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How the Bill of Rights Protects Those on Trial From Govt. Abuse

October 14, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis

Much of the time, we talk about the civil rights people have when being searched, questioned or arrested by police. Of course, the Bill of Rights does not only guarantee our rights up to the point of arrest. Today’s blog post will briefly examine other parts of the Bill of Rights that tend to apply later on in the criminal justice process.

As we have discussed before in this blog, anyone arrested or charged with a crime has the right to have an attorney represent them during police interrogation, during the pre-trial phase and at trial, regardless of ability to pay. This vital civil right comes from the Sixth Amendment, but the Amendment goes on to provide other rights too. One such right is the right to a speedy trial by jury.

A guarantee of a “speedy” trial promises that no defendant should have to languish in legal limbo, perhaps locked up, for an unreasonable length of time. States have various deadlines for when trial must take place following an arrest, though circumstances vary from case to case.

We have all heard the term “a jury of one’s peers.” The jury is supposed to be impartial, meaning jurors must not be prejudiced one way or the other before trial begins. In most states, the jury must unanimously agree that the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If jurors cannot agree, the judge may decide to call a mistrial, which can lead to prosecutors asking that the charges be dismissed.

Another important right is the protection against being charged twice for the same crime, commonly known as “double jeopardy.” The Fifth Amendment holds that nobody can be “put in jeopardy of life or limb” twice over the same alleged crime. This prevents the government from holding a new trial just because it did not like the result of the first one, in the hopes of obtaining a dubious conviction.

To protect your rights at trial, it is important to have a defense attorney well-versed in the law and capable of vigorous representation.

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