It may feel like the weight of the world is on you when you are arrested and charged with a drug crime in Texas. Regardless of what drug you have been charged with possessing, the potential consequences for a conviction are severe. That said, regardless of the legal jeopardy you face, you are endowed with certain rights and liberties by the Constitution of the United States of America. These rights affect how the state can proceed with your prosecution and in what manner law enforcement can collect evidence against you.
The rights afforded to you as a defendant are important, especially given that you can lose them if you don't protect them vigilantly. Abuses by the prosecutor can go unchecked if you don't have an experienced advocate who will fight for you. If you have been charged with a Texas drug crime, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to discuss your legal options.
Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant
The rights afforded to you by the United States Constitution cover everything from protection from having your testimony compelled to your right to confront the witnesses brought against you. Below are the most important rights that protect you as a criminal defendant.
The Right to Remain Silent
For fans of televised crime dramas, the best-known right for criminal defendants is the right to remain silent. Thanks to the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, you are protected against self-incrimination. According to the Fifth Amendment, you cannot be compelled to be a witness against yourself. That means that a prosecutor, police officer, or even a judge cannot force you to testify regarding the material facts of your case.
The protection from self-incrimination is so important that law enforcement must inform you of that right before you can be interrogated. These warnings are known as Miranda Rights. If you are not properly Mirandized, any statements you make during your interrogation may be excluded from trial by your defense attorney.
Protection from Double Jeopardy
Another right granted to you by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is the protection from double jeopardy. The double jeopardy clause to the Fifth Amendment guarantees that you cannot be “subject to the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” In other words, double jeopardy involves being put on trial for the same criminal charge twice.
Thanks to the double jeopardy protections of the Fifth Amendment, you cannot be charged for a crime that you have previously been convicted or acquitted of.
There are some exceptions, however. It is possible to be charged under state and federal law for the same conduct. Double jeopardy also relates only to criminal law; you can face a civil suit for the same conduct that you have previously been tried for in a criminal court.
The Right to Legal Representation
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides you with the right to legal representation. This right is also enshrined in the Miranda warning discussed above. According to the Sixth Amendment, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” Not only do you have the right to adequate legal counsel, but you are also entitled to an attorney even if you cannot afford one. If you are unable to pay for your own attorney, the Sixth Amendment guarantees that the judge will appoint a public defender to represent you.
While your right to an attorney is absolute, there are serious limitations that come with having a public defender on your case. Their caseloads are typically enormous, which means your case will rarely get the attention it needs. Your best bet for obtaining a positive outcome in your case is by hiring an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney.
The Right to a Speedy Trial
Another right guaranteed to you by the Sixth Amendment is the right to a speedy trial. The amendment does not set out a firm definition of what qualifies as a speedy trial. The definition of the term can vary not only between different jurisdictions but also with the type of crime charged. It will be up to the judge in your case to determine if your right to a speedy trial has been violated. If your right to a speedy trial has been violated, your attorney may be able to have the case against you dismissed entirely on constitutional grounds.
The Right to a Public Jury
The Sixth Amendment also guarantees your right to a public trial with a jury of your peers. The trial must be in an open forum and not held in secret. A public trial means that the press and community are allowed to be present for the proceedings.
When it comes to your right to be judged by a jury of your peers, the court you have been charged in will randomly call citizens from your community to serve as jurors. Before the trial begins, your attorney and the prosecutor attorney will have the opportunity to rule out jurors. The process of jury selection is one of the areas that sets apart exceptional attorneys from the rest of the pack.
In Texas drug crime cases, a jury must reach a unanimous decision in order to convict. If there are any holdouts, the jury is considered “hung” and the prosecution will be forced to either start over again or agree not to pursue the case any further. In many cases, a hung jury is a good outcome for a defendant.
The Right to Confront Your Accusers
Not only does the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantee your right to a public trial, but it also guarantees you the right to confront the witnesses against you at that trial. This right was designed to prevent the abusive tactic of allowing secret testimony against you to be considered. With the right to confront your accusers, your attorney is allowed to cross-examine every witness against you. This can be done to challenge their credibility or even disprove their accusations. The opportunity to defend yourself against the charges leveled against you is a basic building block of our criminal justice system.
There are rare exceptions where testimony is allowed despite your inability to confront the witness. In limited cases, out-of-court statements known as hearsay may be allowed. The exceptions surrounding the use of hearsay evidence at your trial can be complex, and it is best to rely on the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney regarding what testimony is admissible and what is not.
The Right to Reasonable Bail
You are also granted a number of important rights by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The first of those is the right to reasonable bail. Bail is an amount of money you are allowed to post in exchange for your freedom pending trial. So long as you appear at all of your court dates, your bail money will be returned to you at the conclusion of your case. The theory is that by having a financial stake in your required appearances, you are unlikely to flee or miss court dates.
The right to reasonable bail is important, as it keeps the prosecutor from obtaining a bail amount that is unreasonable given the severity of the alleged crime. If you are unfairly detained for the length of your pre-trial process because you cannot afford the unreasonable bail set by the court, that can exert pressure on you to agree to a plea bargain that would otherwise be against your own interests.
Protection From Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The Eighth Amendment also protects you against cruel and unusual punishment. This right is typically referred to during the sentencing process and is designed to protect you from disproportionate sentencing. But the protections against cruel and unusual punishment take effect the moment you are in the custody of law enforcement. These protections guarantee humane treatment and living conditions during the course of your incarceration, both pre-trial as well as post-conviction.
How a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Can Protect Your Rights
If you have been charged with a drug crime in the Houston area, your best course of action is to discuss your case with an experienced Houston drug crimes attorney right away. A conviction can carry life-altering consequences, and the sooner you speak with an attorney the better your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome will be. Memories fade and evidence can be lost over time, so it is critical to have your attorney begin working on your defense right away.
When it comes to zealous advocacy of constitutional rights, there is no better choice for a Houston drug crimes attorney than Doug Murphy. Doug Murphy has developed a reputation as a strong advocate that is always ready to take a case to jury trial. A Board Certified expert in criminal defense law, Doug Murphy has a proven record of obtaining favorable outcomes for clients in Houston and the surrounding areas. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for your free consultation.