On December 15, 1791, the United States of America adopted the Bill of Rights, which consists of first ten amendments to the U. S. Constitution and guarantees the fundamental rights of U. S. citizens such as freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and the rights of peaceful assembly and petition (1, 2005). Criminal rights of U. S. citizens are protected by the federal law as well as under the Amendments of the Bill of Rights.
To start with, the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” (1, 2005). In other words, the amendment guarantees that the defendant will not be forced to speak and testify against himself.
Moreover, under its provisions defendants are protected against double jeopardy, particularly in three cases: from investigation of the same crime after an acquittal; from additional investigation after a conviction; and from multiple penalties for the same offense. However, this general statement is subject to various limitations, namely if the decision of the court on the first case was not relevant, or the second crime is subject to several legislative provisions, or the defendant is the military person, the Fifth Amendment is not applicable. The Sixth Amendment gives U. S. citizens the right to “be confronted by the witnesses against” them i. e. they can cross-examine witnesses and require them to come to the court and “look the defendant in the eye” (2, 2005).
On the other hand, the Sixth Amendment guarantees public trials and forbids written statements from persons who are absent in the courtrooms to be used in the court. Still, the judge is entitled to restrict attending in those cases when offenders are charged with sexual assaults against children. Furthermore, under the Sixth Amendment a defendant has right to be tried by a jury. According to the Fifth Amendment they are a board of civilians who are to listen to the case and bring in a verdict of guilty or not guilty (1, 2005). They work in secret and may be released from numerous constitutional restrictions. Hearings of ‘Grand juries’ are closed and attorneys are not allowed to be present at them.
The grand jury may be found only in the federal courts but not in the state ones as in the latter their presence is not stipulated by the Fourteenth Amendment. Generally their number equals to 12 members, but sometimes trials can be held with a six-person jury. In such cases the defendant can be accused only under condition that the jury verdict is unanimous. The Sixth Amendment stipulates that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to have the assistance of counsel for his defense” (1, 2005). Unless a defendant can afford an attorney, a judge must appoint him one at government expense. And last but not the least, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the defendant a right to a “speedy trial” (1, 2005).
Yet, time limits are not specified and the judge decides whether the trial has been dragged and whether it is necessary to speed up the process taking into account the reasons and circumstances of the delay. To conclude, it must be noted that whenever you as the future state or federal law enforcement officers carry out an arrest or detain a suspect you are required to remind the accused their criminal rights which are known as Miranda warnings and read as follows: 1. You have the right to remain silent. 2. Any statement that you make can and will be used as evidence against you in a court of law. 3. You have the right to consult with counsel before answering questions. 4. You have the right to have counsel present during the interrogation. 5.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you without cost, prior to the questioning (3, 2005). Bibliography 1. The Bill of Rights. Retrieved on September 21, 2005 from http://www. billofrights. com/ 2. Defendant’s Rights During a Trial: The Bill of Rights. Retrieved on September 21, 2005 from http://www. nolo. com/article. cfm/ObjectID/6410CC94-3E8F-4A37-A5F85E3348E6431F/catID/428413CA-3B6B-48E3-B69FDF80F4D8E95D/104/143/153/ART/ http://oldweb. uwp. edu/academic/criminal. justice/exclusion. htm 3. Outlaws Legal Service. Search Warrants, Exceptions and Arrest. Retrieved on September 21, 2005 from http://www. outlawslegal. com/refer/search. htm