Every criminal defendant has certain rights in the criminal justice system. Since a DUI is a criminal charge, a suspect or defendant will have the same rights as any other accused person. Yet, when and how these rights apply will depend on the unique circumstances of the case.
A DUI Charge Can be a Misdemeanor
There is no need to distinguish a misdemeanor from a DUI case. This is due to the fact that a DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor. First and second time DUI offenders are likely to be charged at the misdemeanor level. If convicted, a misdemeanor defendant can be fined thousands of dollars and be sentenced to one year of jail time.
Rights of Criminal Defendants
The 5th Amendment Right to Remain Silent
Every criminal defendant shares the right to not bear witness against him or herself. The Fifth Amendment allows defendants to remain silent about the crime they are accused of. Thus, the state can not compel a defendant to give information about a crime or to testify in a trial.
Defendants have the right to a trial in an open, public forum. This right allows the family and supporters of the defendant to view the trial process. In most cases, anyone off the street is allowed to sit-in on the trial. The purpose of this right is to provide accountability to the public.
This right may not apply under special circumstances. Judges can close a courtroom to preserve order and safety. This usually happens during high profile trials. It is also possible for the court to exclude certain witnesses.
Speedy Trial Rights
The Constitution’s Sixth Amendment states that defendants have the right to a speedy trial. This right promotes judicial efficiency. It also prevents unfair delays in processing the defendant’s case. In some scenarios a case can be dismissed if a trial does not occur within a specified time.
Right to a Jury
All those accused of a crime have the right to be tried in front of a jury of their peers. This right is also found in the Sixth Amendment. There are also protections in place for the fair selection of jury members. Furthermore, in most jurisdictions a defendant cannot be convicted unless there is a unanimous decision.
Another right found in the Sixth Amendment concerns representation by an attorney. This is often referred to as “assistance of counsel.” A defendant can always have an attorney handling the case. If a defendant cannot afford an attorney they may use the services of the Public Defender. Defendants can always elect to defend themselves if they prefer.
Every defendant also has the right to adequate representation. A defense lawyer that makes very serious mistakes in a trial may violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. This could give the defendant grounds to appeal the case.
The accused has the right to hear witness testimony and to perform a cross-examination. The state’s attorneys are responsible for presenting witnesses to testify against the defendant. The intent behind this right is to allow the jury and defense to assess the credibility of the witness.
Under the Eight Amendment the defendant has the right to reasonable bail. Defendants also cannot be sentenced to “cruel and unusual punishment.” The restriction against cruel punishments means that prisoners must be given humane treatment while in custody. It also means that the length of a sentence should match the severity of the crime.
Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
One of the most often asserted protections is found in the Fourth Amendment. A suspect has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Police must have probable cause to carry out a search, or to confiscate items from the defendant. In some cases a warrant may be necessary as well. In fact, the only time police do not need a warrant is where the circumstances allow for a warrantless search. If law enforcement violates the 4th Amendment it may be possible to suppress the evidence obtained.
For assistance in better understanding these rights contact a criminal defense attorney for a consultation.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Learn more about DUI by reading this wikipedia page.