Back To CourseBusiness Law: Help and Review
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Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.
The Constitution provides the highest level of law for the United States. The first 10 amendments of the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights, and within this are several rights that an accused person may exercise during a criminal trial:
In order to understand how a defendant exercises these rights, let's quickly run down the steps in a criminal trial. Please keep in mind, not all state courts work in the same way. This is a general overview.
When a person is suspected of criminal behavior, the police will perform an arrest. During the arrest and while in holding, the arrested person may exercise his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. He cannot be forced to testify against himself or incriminate himself in any way.
Once a person is arrested, he is arraigned. This is when the judge informs the defendant of the charges against him. At this point, the defendant may exercise his Sixth Amendment right to an attorney. If he cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint him a public defender. The defendant also has a right to adequate representation under the same amendment. This means that the attorney he hires or that is appointed to him must be reasonably able to perform his duties.
It simply means a competent attorney will represent the defendant. This does not mean that the defendant has a right to win the case against him or have all charges dropped. As long as the attorney does his job by representing the defendant, calling all witnesses, performing the necessary pleadings and motions and responds to the defendant's questions in a timely way, the defendant is being reasonably represented.
Depending on the seriousness of the crime, the judge will set bail. In less serious crimes, police may set bail at the time of the arrest. For our purposes, the defendant committed a serious crime. The defendant may exercise his Eighth Amendment right against excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment while being held.
Next, a preliminary hearing will take place. At this juncture, the prosecutor presents evidence to convince a judge that the defendant committed the crimes he is accused of. If the judge agrees, the case moves to court. If not, the charges may be dropped.
Assuming the judge found the prosecution's evidence convincing enough to move forward, the defendant will go to trial. This means the defendant will stand before a jury and a judge to answer the charges against him.
While awaiting trial, the defendant and his attorney may file pre-trial motions requesting the court to take action. Pre-trial motions may include motion to dismiss or motion to enter a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a request on the behalf of the defendant to plead to a lesser charge, generally in exchange for something like testimony or information.
If no motions are granted, the case will stand trial before a jury. This is a crucial stage in the case because the decision comes down to a unanimous vote decided by 12 people, a defendant's Sixth Amendment right.
The defendant may exercise his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. While there are no specific timeframes that make for a speedy trial and each case is decided on its own merit, a speedy trial basically means a defendant cannot sit in holding for an indefinite period of time. It is in the best interest of all parties that a speedy trial takes place. For the defendant, it means a quicker verdict. For the prosecution, it may mean greater availability of witnesses.
At the trial, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney will present evidence and testimony. The jury containing 12 members of society chosen to reach a verdict will listen to and evaluate evidence and testimony to determine an outcome.
When the trial takes place, the courtroom is generally open to any citizen wishing to visit. Friends, family and members of the press cannot be barred from a courtroom trial. This is expressed in the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Now, once a jury receives its instructions from the judge, the members will deliberate in a private setting. A verdict is reached, sent to the judge, and once approved, is told to the defendant.
If he is found guilty, the defendant may appeal the verdict. If he is found innocent, the defendant cannot be re-tried for the same crime. He is protected against double jeopardy under the Sixth Amendment. In the case of a mistrial where an error took place within the trial, the defendant can be re-tried for the crime.
In the United States, citizens are provided with Constitutional Rights that are recognized as our most valuable rights bestowed on us. Within these Constitutional Rights is the Bill of Rights. Included in the Bill of Rights are three rights that protect those accused of a crime:
Once arrested, the accused does not have to testify against himself. At each step of a criminal trial, specific rights are exercised. For instance, during the arraignment, a defendant has the right to an attorney. If he cannot afford one, the court will appoint an attorney who is reasonably capable of representing the defendant.
While awaiting trial, the defendant has a right to a speedy trial. Under no circumstances may the bail be unreasonable or can the defendant fall victim to cruel and unusual punishment. While there are no set timeframes for a speedy trial, the trial cannot be delayed unless necessary. A jury is also required.
Anyone may attend the trial including family, friends and the press. If the defendant is guilty, he may appeal. If he is innocent, he is free to go and cannot be tried for the same crime again. However, if the jury decides a mistrial, a new trial must be set.
After viewing this video lesson, students will be able to understand the importance of the fifth, sixth and eighth amendments of the constitution when one is being charged with a crime.
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Back To CourseBusiness Law: Help and Review
27 chapters | 345 lessons