Your Legal Rights

About Your Constitutional Rights

As pertaining to the United States legal process

The United States of America has specific provisions in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that serve and protect all citizens in matters involving police intervention, search and seizure, arrest, and prosecution. No matter the type, or amount, of charges that you are facing you DO HAVE LEGAL RIGHTS.

If your Rights have been violated at any point in the legal process your case may be dismissed without prejudice.

Article III provides for the right to a trial by jury in all criminal cases. Additionally, all defendants are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, as judged by their peers.

Article IV addresses matters of extradition, and equal treatment of all U.S. citizens in any State where they are accused of a crime.

Fourth Amendment guards against searches, arrests, and seizures of property without a specific warrant or a “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed.

Fifth Amendment forbids trial for a major crime except after indictment by a grand jury; prohibits double jeopardy (multiple trials for the same offense), except in certain very limited circumstances; forbids punishment without due process of law; and provides that an accused person may not be compelled to testify against their own person. This is regarded as the “rights of the accused” amendment (also known as the Miranda Rights). It further prohibits our government from seizing private property for public use without “just compensation”.

Sixth Amendment guarantees a speedy public trial for criminal offenses. It requires trial by a jury, guarantees the right to legal counsel for the accused, and guarantees that the accused may require witnesses to attend the trial and testify in the presence of the accused. It also guarantees the accused a right to know the charges against him. In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled that the fifth amendment prohibition on forced self-incrimination and the sixth amendment clause on right to counsel were to be made known to all persons placed under arrest, and these clauses have become known as the Miranda rights.

Seventh Amendment assures you of your right to a trial by jury in civil cases.

Eight Amendment forbids excessive bail or fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.

Popular Topics of Discussion

Police Interrogations may be pressed upon you immediately however you do NOT have to participate. From the moment you are asked a question by any member of law enforcement you may (and should) politely decline, and demand to speak with an attorney. You should ALWAYS REMEMBER that “anything you say can and will be used against you”. Police are legally capable of taping or recording you anywhere, including in a squad car, jail cell, interview room, on their phones, and more.

Police Brutality is a misconduct that includes political repression, false arrest, unnecessary violence upon a person, intimidation and similar abuses. Police do have the legal right to use force to take a suspect into custody or maintain control of a chaotic situation (such as a riot). Persons who are engaged with police and become combative may be arrested for “obstruction”, and persons who struggle while being placed under arrest may be charged with “resisting arrest” and may endure “legal physical violence” by the police. You should always mention to your attorney any perceived form of police brutality.

Probable Cause refers to any element that allows a police officer to initiate a search or investigation for a specific cause. Probable Cause for any intervention may generate further probable cause for an expanded search. Probable Cause is usually the result of any of four elements, including:

  • Expertise which includes information that an officer acquires due to special training or knowledge. An example would be an officer makes a traffic stop and then notices items on a car seat that are used to manufacture meth.
  • Observation which includes information that an officer acquires through their own senses (sight, smell, hearing). An example is an officer walking past a car, smelling the odor of marijuana, and approaching the occupants of the vehicle.
  • Information which includes seemingly credible information provided by a witness or victim. An example is a person hearing screams of rape coming from within an apartment and the officer knocks on the door, looks in a window, or enters the apartment.
  • Circumstantial Evidence which includes anything that would cause a reasonable thinking officer to believe that a crime may have been committed. An example is an officer noticing a partially opened, blood spattered door, and then entering the premises.

Miranda Rights

Although the exact wording may vary slightly among police departments, the following is a typical Miranda Warning which should be read by the arresting officer to the person being arrested, at the time of arrest.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

Waiver of Rights

DO NOT ever sign a Waiver of Rights! A Waiver of Rights is a binding agreement that some police investigators persuade persons under arrest to sign which helps only the police.

A signed waiver may make it extremely difficult for your attorney to have any of your statements dismissed. Beware also that even speaking after you have been “Mirandized”, is an implied waiver of rights. NEVER sign any police document until your attorney has told you to do so!

Mr. Zimmerman practices criminal defense in Local, State and Federal
Courts across the State of Georgia. Mr. Zimmerman handles cases in trial courts as well as appeals.

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