As a criminal defense law firm, a common question we get asked is, “What are my rights as a criminal defendant in Georgia?” This is a question we always encourage people to ask if they aren't already. If you know your rights, you'll know what fair treatment entails. You also won't miss out on certain opportunities that could give you a higher chance of winning your case. In this blog post, we will outline your rights as a criminal defendant and what they mean for you.
Where Are My Rights as a Criminal Defendant Outlined?
Before getting into the rights themselves, it's important to understand the background behind them. Your rights as a criminal defendant in Georgia are laid out in the Georgia Constitution, United States Constitution, and in Georgia statutes.
Since they are listed across multiple documents, there are so many we can't possibly list them all here. The strongest rights you have out of any are what's called your Boykin Rights. These were established by the 1969 case Boykin v. Alabama. The defendant Boykin was charged with five counts of robbery and pleaded guilty to all of them. He was given the death penalty, but later examination of the case made it skeptical that he knew about his rights to a trial, against self-incrimination, and to confront witnesses. Boykin Rights were officialized to prevent this injustice from occurring again.
Your Right to Have a Trial
The first right is your right to have a trial. Depending on the crime, you do not have to have a jury trial — some cases are just seen before a judge. However, it is always your choice whether you want to have a jury trial or not. In some cases, you may want to have a jury trial, especially if you believe it will help your case.
For example, let's say you've been charged with a less safe DUI. This means that the government doesn't have test results against you, whether it's a blood, breath, or urine test. It's usually easier to convince a jury that you're not guilty since there is limited hard evidence linking you to the crime.
If you're ever unsure whether you should insist on a jury trial or not, it's always a good idea to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer like Brett Willis.
Your Right to Confrontation
Number two is the right to confront and question the witnesses in your case. This is also known as the right of cross-examination, which is one of the most powerful rights you have. This is what a criminal defense lawyer is trained for. They will ask the witnesses pointed questions which could reveal information that works in your favor or shows there's not enough information to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your Right Against Self-Incrimination
The third Boykin Right is your right against self-incrimination. This is your right not to testify if you don't want to, commonly known as “pleading the Fifth.” You also can't be presumed guilty solely for refusing to testify. A prosecutor can't comment to a jury saying, “They didn't testify, therefore they are guilty.” You can simply sit there and not say anything, and the government will not be able to mention it.
Learn More About Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant in Georgia Today
As mentioned, these are the three main rights in a practically endless list. If you want to learn more about this topic, we are here to help. You won't need to ask “What are my rights as a criminal defendant in Georgia?” any longer — contact us today for expert legal assistance.