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Criminal Defendants Have Rights

The criminal justice system is intimidating, but that doesn’t mean that criminal defendants don’t have rights. Through each stage of the criminal justice system, there are important rights that the government must uphold. This section provides information on the rights of those in the criminal justice system, including Miranda rights such as the right to remain silent, “search and seizure” rights, key rights of criminal defendants, and the various prisoner rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. To begin, select a category from the list below.

Miranda Rights

A criminal suspect has rights during police interrogations, including the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present.

Search and Seizure

The 4th Amendment offers protection from unreasonable searches and unlawful arrests.

Strip Search After an Arrest

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that jails and prisons can strip-search inmates without individualized suspicion.

Fifth Amendment Right Against Incrimination

The government can’t force individuals to make statements that would implicate them in a crime.

Right to Counsel

Criminal defendants have the right to legal representation by a qualified and competent attorney.

Right to Speedy Jury Trial

The government must bring a defendant to trial in a reasonable amount of time.

Double Jeopardy Protection

With a few important exceptions, the government can’t prosecute individuals for the same crime twice.

Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause

Defendants in a criminal case have the right to confront the witnesses against them.

Right to Counsel

First Appeal Defendants have the right to an attorney for an appeal as well as at trial.

No Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The sentences meted out by the criminal justice system cannot be unduly harsh.

Prisoner Rights (Civil Rights Center)

A defendant’s rights in the criminal justice system don’t end after sentencing. Learn more about prisoner rights.

The Fourth Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated. No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fifth Amendment

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The Sixth Amendment

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

The Eighth Amendment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

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