Federal Courts: What Are Your Rights?
A federal court case can be a very frightening and confusing experience. If you’re facing federal charges, it can seem like the odds are against you and the courts have all the power.
However, you have certain rights guaranteed by the government when you’re involved in a federal case. These rights act as a barrier to protect you from improper actions on the part of the prosecution or the court. To fully realize the power of these rights and to create a solid defense, it’s important to understand exactly which rights you have in court.
What Are Your Rights?
The individual rights of a defendant in a federal court case differ slightly from cases that are held in other courts. Despite a few differences, the intent of these rights in all cases is to protect the defendant’s freedom and to ensure a fair trial. Some of these rights include:
- The Right to Remain Silent – Defendants are not required to make any statements nor are they required to testify at trial. They are allowed to consult with their lawyers before making any statements if they choose to make them.
- The Right to Attorney Representation – All defendants have the right to consult with an attorney of their choosing. If a defendant shows that he cannot afford an attorney, an attorney must be provided if the defendant wants attorney consultation.
- The Right to Grand Jury Consideration for Felony Cases – A defendant who has been charged with a felony crime has the right to have the facts of their case presented to a grand jury. A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence. Rather, they analyze the case to determine if enough evidence exists to issue an indictment and formally charge the defendant.
- The right to Know the Prosecution’s Evidence – Defendants in federal court cases are allowed to study the prosecution’s evidence against them.
- The Right to Testify – Defendants are granted the right to testify in their own defense at their trial. However, they are not required to testify and can abstain if they wish. Also, defendants are allowed to subpoena witness to testify in their defense and are allowed to have their lawyers cross-examine prosecution witnesses.
The Truth about Federal Court Cases
A defendant’s rights do not begin and end with the trial phase of a criminal case. If a defendant is convicted of the crime that they were charged with, they are allowed to exercise several other rights that may affect their sentence and their future. Some of these rights include:
- The right to accept a plea bargain instead of a trial
- The right to appeal a conviction
- The right to be informed about rehabilitation programs that may shorten a sentence