Important Rights in Federal Court

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT DEFENDING YOUR CASE

WHAT ARE SOME OF MY IMPORTANT RIGHTS IN FEDERAL COURT?

  • You have a right to refuse to make any statements. If you have a lawyer, never make a statement to anybody without talking to your lawyer first.
  • If you are charged with a felony, you have a right to have your case presented to a grand jury where a group of citizens vote as to whether there is probable cause to believe you committed the crime charged. If you are arrested for a felony offense before an indictment is returned, you have a right to a "preliminary hearing" where a magistrate judge determines if probable cause exists to believe you committed the crime charged.
  • You have a right to be represented by an attorney and to have an attorney appointed by the court if you can show that you are unable to hire an attorney.
  • You have a right to a detention hearing if the government seeks to keep you in jail pending your trial.
  • You have a right to discover the evidence against you.
  • You have a right to have the government prove any charge against you "beyond a reasonable doubt." The "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard is the highest standard of proof that exists in the American justice system.
  • You have a right to a speedy jury trial. Unlike in state court, a jury in federal court only decides the issue of guilt and innocence, not the sentence.
  • If there is a trial, you have a right to testify at the trial. On the other hand, you cannot be forced to testify and, if you chose not to testify, that fact cannot be used against you.
  • You have a right to use subpoenas to make witnesses come to court and testify on your behalf at any trial.
  • You have a right, if there is a trial, to have your lawyer cross examine the government's witnesses.
  • You have a right to appeal your case and, if you cannot afford a lawyer, you have a right to an appointed lawyer on appeal.

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