As the defendant in a Florida federal criminal case, you have several important constitutional rights that are intended to protect you. For those rights to accomplish that goal, however, you must know what they are as well as understand how and when to assert them. At Haas Law, we have the experience, skill, and resources needed to safeguard your rights as well as address a violation of your rights that has already occurred.
The Bill of Rights
When the U.S. Constitution was created, several states believed that the Constitution lacked sufficient protection for individual liberties and that additional limits on the power of the federal government were necessary. In response, James Madison came up with 17 possible Amendments, ten of which ultimately became Amendments. Those first ten Amendments are collectively referred to as the “Bill of Rights.” It is within the Bill of Rights that specific, and important, rights of a criminal defendant can be found, including:
- 4th Amendment Right Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures. The strength of the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures has been watered down somewhat by court interpretation over the years; however, it stands for the idea that a law enforcement officer cannot conduct a search of your person, property, or things without first obtaining a warrant that must be based on probable cause. Probable cause, in turn, requires a logical belief, supported by facts and circumstances, that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed or that evidence of a crime will be found at the location to be searched.
- 5th Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination (Right to Remain Silent). Aside from answering questions regarding your identity, your right to remain silent means just what it sounds like. During an encounter with a law enforcement officer, you are not required to answer questions or speak to the police. You can invoke, or waive, your 5th Amendment right at any point during an investigation or trial.
- 5th Amendment Right Against Double Jeopardy. This prevents you from being punished for the same offense twice. In a jury trial, jeopardy attaches when the jury is sworn whereas, in a bench trial (a case tried to a judge without a jury), jeopardy attaches when the first witness is sworn in. If you enter into a guilty plea agreement with the prosecution, jeopardy does not attach until the court accepts the plea.
- 6th Amendment Right to Counsel. The 6th Amendment provides an accused with the right to “assistance of counsel” in a criminal prosecution. In most criminal prosecutions, this right also includes the right to have an attorney appointed to represent you if you cannot afford to hire one.
- 6th Amendment Right to Confront and Cross-Examine Witnesses Against You. This right allows your defense attorney to depose witnesses who are scheduled to testify for the State as well as examine evidence intended to be used against you at trial. At trial, it also lets your attorney cross-examine every State’s witness to try and shed doubt on the witness’s credibility, accuracy, or truthfulness.
- 6th Amendment Right to Trial by Jury. The 6th Amendment reads, in part “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The right to a trial by jury, like all your Constitutional rights, is your right to exercise or to waive. Waiving your right to a trial by jury means that you have decided to enter into a guilty plea agreement with the prosecution or you wish to try your case to a judge.
- 8th Amendment Right to Bail. Most defendants in a federal criminal case are entitled to bail/bond. Posting bail allows you to be released from custody while the case is pending. The amount of bail in a federal criminal case will depend on factors such as the risk to the community, the severity of the charges against the defendant, and the likelihood that the defendant will appear for all future court dates.
When Must a Law Enforcement Officer Inform You of Your Rights?
Most people are familiar with the general concept behind a law enforcement officer’s duty to inform a suspect of his/her rights. Known as your “Miranda rights” after the case (Miranda vs. Arizona, 384 US 436, 1966) that established the duty, it is important to understand both when a law enforcement officer is required to inform you of your Miranda rights. A law enforcement officer is only required to inform you of your Miranda rights (also called Miranda warnings) if you are in custody and the officer wishes to question you. If both of those conditions apply, the officer must inform you of the following:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
What Happens If Your Rights Are Violated?
The ramifications for a violation of your constitutional rights in a federal criminal case will depend on which right was violated. For example, if your right against unreasonable search and seizure was violated, any evidence seized may be inadmissible at trial. Likewise for any statements you made if your right against self-incrimination was violated. A violation of other rights, such as your right to an impartial jury or your right to confront witnesses, will likely be addressed during the appellate process if you are convicted and could result in granting an appeal that overturns your conviction and/or orders a new trial.
Get Help from an Experienced Florida Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing federal criminal charges in Florida, consulting with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately is the best way to make sure your rights are protected and asserted when appropriate.
At Haas Law, our Florida federal criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing individuals accused of committing federal criminal offenses. We will zealously protect your rights going forward and aggressively act on your behalf if any of your rights have been violated.
Call us at 407-755-7675, chat with us online, or submit our online form today. Because we understand that time is of the essence when federal law enforcement authorities are investigating you, our calls are answered 24 hours a day, allowing you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.