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What Rights Does a Defendant Have?


Although being arrested for and charged with a crime could be an intimidating experience that seemingly restricts a person’s rights, specific amendments to the U.S. constitution offer certain protections to individuals throughout the criminal process.

Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment protects an individual from unreasonable government intrusion. Under this statute, law enforcement officials cannot search a person’s private property without permission or probable cause. That means an officer cannot show up at an individual’s home demanding to be allowed to search the premises. They must first prove to the court that there is a reason to look through a person’s possessions, and the court must issue an order – warrant – to do so.

However, if an officer pulls a driver over and they see something in the vehicle that suggests a crime has been committed, they could search the car without obtaining a warrant.

If the law enforcement officer does not have the proper permission to go through an individual’s home or property, the evidence they obtain during the search could be thrown out in court.

Fifth Amendment Rights

The Fifth Amendment offers various protections to defendants.

Double Jeopardy

The Double Jeopardy Clause protects an individual who has been found not guilty of an offense from being tried again for the same crime.


A defendant has the right not to provide information, either before court proceedings or during, that might be self-incriminating. The individual could invoke their Fifth Amendment right and choose not to answer law enforcement’s questions. If the cops continue to question the person even after they have said they would remain silent, the information given might not be admissible in court.

Additionally, during the criminal trial, the defendant does not have to testify against themselves.

Due Process

The Due Process Clause guarantees a defendant the right to a fair trial. That means the federal government must ensure the individual’s constitutional rights were not violated during the criminal process. Whereas the Fifth Amendment applies to federal laws, the Fourteenth Amendment applies to fairness under state laws.

Sixth Amendment Rights

As with the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment allows for various rights.

Right to a Speedy Trial

Although this clause does not have a specific timeframe by which a trial must take place and conclude, it protects an individual from having their proceedings be excessively delayed.

Right to a Jury Trial

This clause gives the defendant the right to be heard by a jury of their peers. It was established to protect individuals from prosecution and conviction based solely on the government’s decision. The defendant is guaranteed a fair trial by having an unbiased panel decide their case.

Right to Confront Witnesses

Under this clause, the defendant has the right to cross-examine the person making allegations against them. The rationale behind this law is to allow a judge or jury to observe the witness’s behavior and test their character.

Right to Effective Counsel

In criminal trials, the defendant has the right to be represented in court by a lawyer. If they cannot afford to hire a private attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to their case.

Eighth Amendment Rights

Under the Eighth Amendment individuals are protected from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as excessive bail.

The cruel and unusual punishment clause prohibits the government from subjecting a defendant found guilty of an offense to penalties that do not fit the crime.

Bail is the price a person must pay to be released from jail while awaiting trial. Under the excessive bail section, the court cannot set an amount that is disproportionate to the crime and is so high that the individual could not afford it.

Schedule a Free Consultation with the Law Office of Steven Fine

At our firm, we believe that everyone deserves a fair trial, which is why we will examine every detail of your circumstances to determine whether or not your rights were violated at any point during the process. Backed by over 20 years of experience, we know how to handle various types of criminal cases and will work toward getting your charges reduced or dropped.

Speak with our attorney today by calling us at (312) 436-0638 or contacting us online.