Law enforcement officers must treat every person fairly. Race, ethnicity, national origin or religion should play no part when making an arrest or suspecting someone of the crime. It should also not matter whether the person is the alleged victim of the crime or the one accused of it. The victim and the accused both have rights. However, in most criminal cases, the victims get the sympathy vote, and the accused becomes the victim of the criminal justice system even before a conviction. Those accused should know that they also have rights.
The accused has the right to remain silent
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors cannot force the accused to answer incriminating questions about an alleged crime. They can choose not to answer and invoke their Fifth Amendment right, which protects every person from self-incrimination regardless of the circumstances.
The accused has the right to an attorney
When an officer takes someone into custody for criminal charges, that person becomes a defendant because they are in a position where they must defend themselves against the charges. The defendant has a right to legal representation, and they do not need to say anything without their attorney by their side.
The defendant has a right to a fair trial
If the criminal charges are serious and the defendant wants to prove their innocence, then they have a right to a fair trial by an unbiased jury in the county where the alleged crime occurred. Both sides will have a say in the jury selection process and can move to remove unfair or biased jurors.
The defendant has a right to a speedy and public trial
Defendants may worry that trials take too long, and people will not be able to see or hear their side of the story. In Florida, if the crime in question is a misdemeanor, the person charged shall go to trial within 90 days of the arrest. If the crime charged is a felony, the trial should happen within 175 days of the arrest. The trial is open to the public to ensure the proceedings are fair.
The defendant has a right to confront and present witnesses
A defendant or their legal representative has the right to gather their own witnesses and to cross-examine any witnesses testifying against them during the trial. They can also present evidence to justify their actions or prove their innocence.
The defendant has a right to due process
No person in the state or country may deprive another of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that states must respect all a person’s legal rights until a fair, lawful judgment.
The presumption of innocence remains until the prosecution can prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.