Right to Counsel:
The Sixth Amendment gives you the right to have counsel before giving any statements or submitting to questioning. You have the right to an attorney at all proceedings in the trial court and on appeal if you are convicted at trial. You NEED a lawyer BEFORE you make any statements to the police. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court is required to appoint an attorney. You do not have the right to a great lawyer and although many court appointed attorneys are very skilled and conscientious, they are often over worked and pressured to quickly resolve cases. If you have the ability to hire a top lawyer, you can find someone who is a good fit for you, who is highly experienced and is passionate about providing you the best defense possible.
Right to Remain Silent
You are not required to talk to the police when questioned about a crime. Do NOT give a statement. NEVER talk to the police without the assistance of an attorney. Anything you say may be tape recorded or videotaped with or without your knowledge. The police can even lie to you about recording your statement and they can lie to you in order to trick you into talking. (Do NOT discuss facts of an alleged crime with anyone including family members. There is no privilege to protect your statements to these persons). Only talk to your lawyer. If you are being questioned before you are charged, you do not have a right to a lawyer under those circumstances. Simply invoke your right to remain silent. If you can afford to hire a paid attorney, you should immediately do so if you know you are being investigated or if you are a suspect.
Right to Equal Protection Under the Law
This right is intended to give all persons, regardless of race, creed, nationality, religion, gender, the same protections and rights. In other words, no person or class of persons shall be denied the protections enjoyed by other persons or classes in like circumstances.
Right to be Free From Unreasonable Searches or Seizures
Do NOT allow any search of your body, home, garage, business, computer, car, boat or other dwelling or conveyance or property, unless an officer presents proper credentials and a search warrant. This doesn’t mean that you should be anything but respectful however. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. ONLY if the police have a valid search warrant is it appropriate to give permission to search. If there is a warrant, ask to read the papers before granting permission. Then ask the officers if you may watch as they search and ask to call your lawyer before the search. You never know whether your spouse, children or perhaps a friend or acquaintance (or even a stranger) may have placed or left contraband or other evidence of crime in or on your property.
NEVER give consent to a search without a warrant. If asked whether it will be okay to search, just say, “No.” If the police proceed with a search despite your refusal, just be police and cooperate or you risk being arrested for other criminal charges. You cannot resist the police even if they are acting illegally. If there is evidence that is illegally obtained a good criminal defense lawyer will be able to move for the suppression of the evidence at the appropriate time. Many criminal defense lawyers are afraid to fight the government. If you hire a retained Michigan criminal attorney, you must find one that is not afraid to win!
Right to a Speedy and Public Trial
The Sixth Amendment guarantees a “speedy trial” without unreasonable delays. This does not mean that you receive an immediate trial, but factors are analyzed to determine whether the delay is reasonable and whether there is any prejudice caused by an unreasonable delay. Your trial must be open to the public (except in certain juvenile settings and cases where an alleged victim is determined to need special protection). All delays attributable to the defendant, requested by the defense attorney or stipulated to the defense are not included in any calculation of a delay.
Right to Due Process of Law
This means that you must be given the opportunity of a fair trial or to fair procedures and that certain rights or privileges or property cannot be taken from you except under special circumstances. In many cases, it will appear that your right to due process is being violation. Indeed, in the view of many criminal defense attorneys, a client’s right to due process is often violated. A great criminal lawyer will do what is necessary to protect the client even if the court or the prosecutor seem intent on violating the right to a fair trial.
Right to Subpoena Witnesses
If you go to preliminary hearing or trial, you have the right to compulsory process or to subpoena witnesses regardless of whether the witness agrees to cooperate. If you serve the witness with a subpoena, they must attend hearings and give testimony (thus the right of confronting your accusers). The right to confront witnesses also means that your attorney will have the right to cross-examine any witness called by the prosecution.
Right to a Trial by Jury
You are entitled to a jury trial, unless both you and the government agree to a trial before the judge. This is often called a bench trial. If you demand a trial, a jury of six (misdemeanor jury) or twelve (felony jury) qualified persons must be empanelled to hear your case. Never waive the right to a jury unless a qualified, highly experienced attorney who knows the judge recommends doing so.
Right to a Unanimous Verdict
To be convicted of a crime, all jurors must find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In felony cases, twelve people must agree that you are guilty of the crime charged or some lesser-included offense; otherwise, you cannot be found guilty. (If the jury reaches an impasse, the jury may be hung or split. Under these circumstances, you can be tried again). Similarly, the jury must also be unanimous for there to be a verdict of not guilty (acquittal).
Right to be Free from Subsequent Trials (Double Jeopardy)
The Fifth Amendment states that no person can be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. If the jury unanimously agrees that you are not guilty, then you cannot be tried again for that crime. In Michigan, you can be subsequently tried for another crime if the other crime is made up of different elements.
Right to Appeal
You have an appeal of right if you are convicted at trial. If you enter into a plea bargain or if you simply plead guilty, you may or may not waive certain rights to appeal. Generally in Michigan, if you plead guilty or no contest, you waive the right to appeal. If you plead, you generally have only the right to apply for leave to appeal. Applying for leave to appeal means that you would have to ask the higher court for permission to appeal.