Know Your Constitutional And Legal Rights

Let's say that you or a member of your family is about to be investigated, accused and/or arrested for a violation of the Laws of the State of Georgia.  Certain rights and privileges as well as your liberty (freedom) may be at risk.  What are your rights under the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Georgia?   What should you Never do, and what should you Always do?  What are your rights when the time comes to defend your charges in a Court of Law, and what should you expect?

The first ten Amendments to the United States Consitution comprise the Bill of Rights.  You and your family will have a safer and happier life if you understand, appreciate and teach each other the following provisions. 

Second Amendment of the United States Constitution:  "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution:  "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search and seizures shall not be violated."

Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution:  "No person 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 . . ."

Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution:  "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

If you are unfortunate enough to be arrested despite your best Constitutional efforts to the contrary, you need to know your rights, entitlements and expectations when you get to court.

Right To Counsel:  You have the right to be represented by a lawyer at all stages of the criminal justice process.  You have the right to meet with a lawyer before your Arraignment (the hearing when you enter a plea of  "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" to the accusations and charges brought against you by the State of Georgia).  If you cannot afford a lawyer, you should make an application for appointed counsel.  If the particular court you are in requires that the application be in writing, a form will be provided.  If you go to trial, you have the right to have a lawyer represent you at that trial.  Your lawyer has the responsibility to explain the charges against you, conduct any necessary investigation, file discovery motions (which get the case information needed for your defense), file additional motions based upon the discovery information received, advise you of your defenses and choices, and otherwise assist you in presenting your case.

Presumption Of Innocence:  Even though you have been charged with a criminal offense, you are presumed to be innocent.  That means that the burden is on the State of Georgia to prove that you are guilty of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.  You lose the presumption of innocence only by entering a plea of "Guilty" or "Nolo Contendre" or by being found "Guilty" at trial. 

Right To Trial:  You have the right to go to trial on the charges made against you.  You have the right to have your case heard before a Jury of your peers or before a Judge.  At this trial, the State of Georgia will have the burden to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Your lawyer will be able to cross-examine (question) the witnesses and challenge the evidence presented against you.  Your lawyer will also be able to subpoena witnesses on your behalf (whether they wish to attend or not) and present other evidence supporting your defense or mitigating your involvement in the alleged crime.

Right To Testify Or Not Testify:  At your Arraignment and Trial, you have the right to remain silent.  You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to sign anything.  No one can make you testify -- not even your lawyer.  Neither the Judge nor the Jury can penalize you or draw reference from your silence.  If you want to testify on your own behalf, you can do so.  However, if you testify the prosecutor for the State of Georgia can ask you questions on cross-examination.  In some cases, the State of Georgia may also present previous criminal convictions and similar transactions in an effort to impeach (discredit) your testimony to the judge or jury. 

Never and Always

This list could be endless, but I can make it simple.  

1)  NEVER give any oral or written statements to law enforcement!

2)  NEVER sign anything, especially statements, or waivers of your Miranda Rights!

3)  NEVER consent to any searches whatsoever!

4)  NEVER speak with anyone about your case before you speak with your attorney as they can be called as a witness against you!


If you do not follow these simple rules, your chances of a favorable outcome on your case are greatly diminished before you have a chance to retain legal counsel!