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What Are My Civil Rights as a Criminal Defendant in New Jersey?

Legal Blog

If you’ve been arrested for a crime, you may feel as though you’ve been stripped of all of your rights. However, it’s important to remember that you do indeed have rights as a criminal defendant in New Jersey. Understanding these rights can help you to legally protect yourself while you navigate your criminal case. That’s why we’ve composed a list of the most important constitutional rights a criminal defendant has. In this article, you’ll find brief summaries of these rights as well as what to do if you’ve recently been charged with a crime.

Fourth Amendment Rights

If your property, home, or vehicle was searched by an officer without probable cause or a search warrant, any evidence found can’t be used against you in a court of law. This is the backbone of your fourth amendment rights. A criminal defendant in New Jersey needs to understand this first and foremost. If you were arrested, but you feel as though the arresting officer had no grounds to search your property or seize your personal belongings, this is a violation of your fourth amendment rights. Unreasonable search and seizures are against the law.

Fifth Amendment Rights

When you think of the civil rights of a criminal defendant, you probably think of our Fifth Amendment rights. This is our right to remain silent. This is the first line that is read in our Miranda rights, which are a list of rights that arresting officer will state to a suspect before they’re questioned. Remember that it’s in your best interest to remain silent until you have proper representation from a criminal defense attorney. This is because anything you say “can be used against you in a court of law”. Our Fifth Amendment states that a criminal defendant in New Jersey can’t “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”. This amendment protects us from self-incrimination. If you’ve been arrested and read your rights, to avoid further legal issues, it’s vital that you remain silent until your attorney arrives.

Sixth Amendment Rights

A criminal defendant in New Jersey should be well aware of their Sixth Amendment Rights. This amendment is broken down into four main clauses: the right to representation, right to a speedy trial, right to a public jury, and the right to confront a witness.

  • Right to Representation: this is your right to obtain a criminal defense attorney. If you can’t afford one, one will be appointed to you by the courts. This type of attorney is referred to as a public defender. It’s highly recommended to use an experienced criminal defense attorney whenever possible.
  • Right to a Speedy Trial: this can become tricky, mainly because there isn’t a set time limit in the constitution that defines what “speedy” is. Every jurisdiction sets different regulations on their time limits to process cases. If you feel as though your case was unfairly delayed, you can bring this issue to a judge.
  • Right to a Public Jury: in our justice system, you have the right to be tried by a jury of your peers. While not every criminal case goes to trial, you do have the right to bring your case to a public forum for judgment.
  • Right to Confront a Witness: finally, the sixth amendment gives a criminal defendant in New Jersey the right to confront their accuser or a witness in the crime. This clause basically states that you have the right to present a counter argument or counter-evidence to defend yourself against their testimony.

Eighth Amendment Rights

Our eighth amendment rights add an extra layer of protection if we are detained by law enforcement. A criminal defendant in New Jersey has the right to a reasonable bail and the right against cruel and unusual punishment.

  • Right to a Reasonable Bail: the bail set by the judge needs to match the severity of the crime. Bail cannot be set to extreme or excessive numbers.
  • Right Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment: this is one of the most important rights that criminal defendants need to remember when detained. Despite the results of your trial or what you’ve been accused of, you still have basic human rights as an individual in the prison system.

For More Information on Rights of a Criminal Defendant in New Jersey

If you’ve recently been arrested and charged with a crime, it’s important to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As your Sixth Amendment states, you have the right to representation. A criminal defense attorney can help to build your defense, provide legal guidance, and protect you if any of the above rights were violated. A defense attorney can also help you to negotiate a plea deal and avoid a trial if necessary. Contact the Law Office of Douglas Herring today to learn more about how you should move forward with your case.

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