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Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Rights of the Accused

Mini-lesson for GaVS American Government students discussing Constitutional rights granted to those accused of crimes

Carrie Siegmund

on 12 November 2012

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Transcript of Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Rights of the Accused

Rights of the Accused are written in the Constitution because...
The Framers of the Constitution had fresh memories of a government that accused people of crimes they did not commit and then convicted them in unfair trials. Consequently, they went to great lengths to assure that the new government they established would not engage in such practices.

Toward that end, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantee a series of important protections for individuals accused of committing crimes in the United States. Do you know your rights?
Origin of the Miranda Rights
The Rights of the Accused Protections for the Accused When an individual is arrested and charged with a crime, he or she is guaranteed a variety of rights aimed at insuring that the legal proceedings which follow will be fair.

Let's take a look at these Constitutional protections The Writ of Habeas Corpus- the right to know why you are in prison! One of the most serious abuses of governmental power that the Framers sought to prevent was the imprisonment or detention of citizens without an indication of why they were being held.

A writ of habeas corpus is a directive from a court requiring the government to justify the imprisonment of a citizen.

Because of the writ of habeas corpus guarantee, an individual cannot be held for more than a short period of time without being formally charged with a crime.

At times, especially during war periods, the President may suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Ex. The Civil War, The War on Terror- See Political Cartoon below Trial by Jury One of the most important rights of an individual formally charged with a "serious crime" is the right to a jury trial.

This right is guaranteed in Article III of the Constitution and by the Sixth Amendment.

Persons accused of crimes have the right to have their guilt or innocence determined by a panel of fellow-citizens.

The jury trial and grand jury guarantees are intended to protect private citizens from over-zealous police officers, prosecutors and judges. By interjecting the wisdom and judgment of other private individuals into the process, an effective check on law enforcement and on the judicial system is maintained. Self-Incrimination- "I plead the 5th!"
In addition to the guarantee of a jury trial, the Fifth Amendment states that no person "shall be compelled in a criminal case to be a witness against himself."

Persons accused of crimes or witnesses in legal proceedings will often invoke this right by "pleading the Fifth" or by "claiming their Fifth Amendment rights."

Most Americans (at least those who have watched any "cop" shows), know that when someone is arrested, they must be "read their rights." The "reading of rights" to an accused individual is often referred to as the "Miranda warning." Part of the Miranda Rights include the statement, "You have the right to remain silent." "Double Jeopardy"
You cannot be tried for the same crime twice Persons accused of crimes are also protected from what is called "doublejeopardy." In the words of the Fifth Amendment, no person shall "be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."

If the result of a jury trial is an acquittal (the jury finds the defendant "not guilty"), there can be no further legal action taken against the defendant for that crime. No Excessive, Cruel or Unusual Fines or Punishments
The punishment should fit the crime The Eighth Amendment forbids the government from imposing excessive bail, fines or "cruel and unusual" punishments.

Given the era during which the Eighth Amendment was drafted and ratified, one of its obvious intents was to prohibit torture. Under the limitations imposed by the Constitution, penalties for crimes may include fines or incarceration, but not excessively painful or physically harmful penalties such as whippings or branding, both common practices in the 1700s.

The Court has also interpreted the Eighth Amendment to prohibit imprisonment in unsanitary or inhumane conditions. Search Warrants The Fourth Amendment forbids the search or seizure of an individual's private property without a warrant.

In practice, this means that a police officer or other government agent cannot enter your home to search it and seize evidence unless he or she has the permission of a judge to do so.

When a law enforcement official is investigating a crime, he or she must assemble enough evidence to convince a judge that the violation of a suspect's privacy and property is "warranted." The standard for demonstrating the need for a warrant is that the government must show that it has "probable cause." The "Due Process of Law" The Constitution and the Bill or Rights guarantee several specific rights of the accused, many of which have been discussed above. In addition to these narrowly defined rights, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments also provide the broad guarantee that no one shall be deprived of "life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

The "due process" guarantee includes the rights outlined in the Constitution as well as others not specifically mentioned. In fact, some observers have referred to the due process clauses as the "wild card" of the Constitution because of the opportunity they provide for the judiciary to interpret individual rights expansively.

In the most simple terms, however, the due process guarantees of the Constitution guarantee that individuals accused of crimes will be given a fair trial. This includes the guarantee of a jury trial, the right against self-incrimination and others already discussed. Other specific due process guarantees include the right of the accused to confront their accusers and to compel favorable witnesses to testify in their behalf (Sixth Amendment).

The U.S. Justice system extends a significant menu of rights to persons accused of crimes in the United States of America. Through these rights, the people of this nation are provided significant protections from unfair and unjust accusations and punishments. Let's Review! Rights of the Accused • You have the right to remain ____________________. Plead the 5th.

• You have the right to a trial by __________________. 6th Amendment

• You have the right to know why you are imprisoned. The writ of _________ _________.

• You cannot be tried for the same twice- No __________ ____________. (5th Amendment).

• You should not have to pay excessive bail or fines, and you should not face cruel or unusual punishment=________ Amendment.

• The _________ Amendment forbids the search and seizure of your personal property without a warrant.

• The 5th and 14th Amendments provide the broad guarantee that no one shall be deprived of "life, liberty, or property, without ____________ ______________ of the law." Reference:
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