As a Freeport attorney will advise criminal defense clients, criminal defendants are guaranteed certain rights under the Bill of Rights. Two major aspects of the United States criminal justice system are the presumption that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and that the government bears the burden of proving that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Other important rights include:
Right to Remain Silent
Under the United States Constitution, defendants cannot be compelled to be witnesses against themselves in criminal cases. Should a Freeport attorney advise his or her client to exercise that Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, the prosecutor may not call the defendant as a witness. Furthermore, neither the judge nor defense attorney can force a defendant to testify, either. That protection does not apply in civil cases, however, and defendants can be required to testify then.
Right to Confront Witnesses
Defendants have the right to “be confronted by the witnesses against” them, meaning that witnesses must come to court and participate in questioning from both the prosecution and any Freeport attorney serving on the defense. Also, the Sixth Amendment forbids prosecutors to use written statements from absent witnesses in order to prove a defendant’s guilt–except in certain limited cases.
Special Confrontation Rules for Child Sexual Assault Cases
Many states have enacted special rules to address the concern of defendants escaping punishment in sexual molestation cases when young children are too afraid to testify in front of the defendant. Accordingly, judges can allow children in certain situations to testify via closed circuit television. The defendant can see the child on the television screen but the child is not forced to see the defendant. The Freeport defense attorney can be physically present in the location where the child testifies and can still cross-examine the child.
Right to a Public Trial
As Freeport attorneys will advise their clients, the Sixth Amendment provides criminal defendants the right to a public trial. This protects defendants from being unfairly prosecuted and convicted by the government since the defendant’s family and friends, ordinary citizens, and the press can witness how the prosecution conducts the case. Judges can bar the public from attending certain cases, typically those involving children. Judges can also prevent witnesses from sitting in the courtroom in order to keep them from influence each other’s testimony.
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