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Criminal Constitutional Rights

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What are Constitutional Rights?

Constitutional rights are those protections granted under the Constitution of the United States.  Many of these can be found directly in the original text articles of the constitution.  For example, Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution provides protections against “ex post facto” laws (i.e., incriminating a person for crimes committed in the past). 

However, in a criminal setting, the majority of constitutional rights of criminal defendants are derived from the Amendments to the Constitution.  These apply in most criminal cases and can often form the basis of the defendant’s defense.

Which Constitutional Rights Apply in a Criminal Case?

There are many different constitutional rights that apply to criminal cases.  Some of rights that arise more frequently involve:

  • 4th Amendment rights:  These include the right to be free from illegal search and seizure, and provisions involving search warrants
  • 5th Amendment rights:  These include due process rights, the right to be silent, Miranda rights, and the right against double jeopardy (protection from being tried for the same crime twice)
  • 6th Amendment rights:  These include the right to a speedy trial, the right to an impartial jury, the right to assistance of counsel, the right to confront witnesses (cross-examine them at trial), the right to be informed of the charges being brought and the punishments, and the right to compel witnesses to appear in court
  • 8th Amendment rights:  These cover rights involving bail and limitations on sentencing, especially prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishments
  • 14th Amendment rights:  There are several due process rights included in this amendment

Thus, there are many, many different constitutional rights that apply to criminal cases, many of which the average person might not be aware of. 

What Happens if a Constitutional Right is Violated?

This depends on the nature of the right that was violated.  For example, if evidence was seized illegally without a warrant, this is a violation of the defendant’s 4th amendment rights.  Consequently, the evidence obtained by the illegal seizure cannot be used during the criminal trial.

Or, suppose that a person is being tried for the same crime twice.  This would be considered a violation of the person’s 6th amendment right against double jeopardy.  In this case, any ruling or conclusion reached in the second trial is not valid and cannot be cited in subsequent convictions. 

Thus, violations of a defendant’s criminal rights can have very-far reaching effects for the outcome of the trial.  They can also affect other charges in the future if the defendant faces another criminal trial. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Constitutional Rights in a Criminal Case?

Constitutional rights are intended to support concepts of justice and equality in the U.S. criminal system.  If you have any questions or issues involving constitutional rights in a criminal case, you may wish to contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately.  Your attorney can advise you of your rights and can help defend you if any of your rights have been violated. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-11-2018 08:47 PM PDT

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