DiCindio Law LLC | August 16, 2022 | Criminal Defense
Three of the Most Frequently Violated Rights of the Accused in Pennsylvania
Being accused of a crime can make you panic. The emotions you experience can overwhelm your judgment. Law enforcement officers often rely on your fear preventing you from focusing on your legal rights.
Fortunately, the accused in Pennsylvania have specific legal rights. Many of the provisions in the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution protect individuals from being convicted of a crime without a fair and impartial process to determine guilt. Additionally, several amendments to the Constitution protect our civil rights.
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may violate your civil rights in their rush to convict someone for the crime. However, there are three rights accused people in Pennsylvania have that are often violated during the criminal justice process, which we’ll cover here.
The Miranda Warning explains two crucial rights that you have after being arrested. You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to legal counsel. Law enforcement officers are under a constitutional requirement to explain these rights to you once you are detained.
Many people are confused about the Miranda Warning. They believe the court must dismiss the criminal charges if the police failed to inform them of their Miranda rights. However, that is not true.
If the police officers fail to inform you that you have the right to remain silent and have an attorney present, anything you say can be inadmissible in court. However, you could still be judged guilty if the prosecution has sufficient evidence without your statements.
It can be tempting to waive your right to an attorney and to remain silent. Police officers are skilled at lying to and intimidating suspects.
However, it is never in your best interest to waive your rights. The best way to protect yourself is to remain silent except for asking for a criminal defense lawyer.
Talking to the police without a lawyer could make it more difficult for a lawyer to defend you against sex crimes, drug crimes, DUI, and other crimes. It can also make it more difficult for the lawyer to negotiate a fair plea agreement with the prosecution.
Unlawful Searches and Seizures
People are protected from unreasonable seizures and searches by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
For example, police officers must have reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime or are committing a crime to make a traffic stop. The officer cannot pull you over for any arbitrary reason.
Police officers must have probable cause to search you or your property or arrest you. Probable cause is a level above reasonable suspicion. The police officer must be able to articulate a reasonable basis for believing the person committed a crime. Being suspicious is insufficient for an arrest or a search without a warrant.
However, exigent circumstances can give officers probable cause to conduct a warrantless search or seizure. Using exigent circumstances to justify a warrantless search or seizure can be abusive and violate the person’s rights.
The courts are required to let people go if they are unlawfully arrested. Evidence obtained without probable cause or a valid search warrant is admissible in court.
Violations of Due Process
Individuals accused of a crime have the right to due process of law. All levels of government must operate within the law and have fair procedures and proceedings for the accused. Due process includes the right to be given notice, have an opportunity to be heard, and have a neutral decision-maker rule on guilt or innocence.
Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is complex. The average person may not understand the system or all of their legal rights after being accused of a crime. Therefore, someone’s right to due process could be violated without their knowledge.
For example, an accused person has the right to compel witnesses to testify. It does not matter whether the witness wants to testify. If the witness has favorable information, you can request the court to compel the witness to appear and testify.
Prosecutors may violate due process during discovery. They are required to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defendant. Exculpatory evidence is evidence that could prove the defendant is innocent.
Without a criminal defense lawyer representing you, the prosecution and law enforcement officers could violate your rights without your knowledge. For that reason, it is always best to contact a criminal defense attorney for legal advice.
Trusting that the “system” is fair and your innocence will keep you out of jail is not advisable. Innocent people go to jail, so you need a lawyer even if you are innocent. Likewise, people with valid defenses that could result in a dismissal of criminal charges or an acquittal go to jail if they do not have an experienced defense lawyer fighting for them.