The Constitutions of the United States and Oklahoma each guarantee our citizens certain basic rights, including the right to counsel, the privilege against self-incrimination (i.e., the right to remain silent), the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, etc. In matters of criminal law and investigation, you must know your rights. You should also follow my simple "rules of investigation" to protect your rights.
Right to Counsel:
The Sixth Amendment gives you the right to have counsel before giving any statements or submitting to questioning. Exercise your rights. You need an attorney before you make any statements to the police. This is your most important right. If you cannot afford counsel, the court is required to appoint counsel. (Note that in Oklahoma County and many others, if you post bail the judges generally will not appoint counsel on the theory that if you can afford to bail out of jail, then you can afford an attorney. Though this may not be realistic or fair, you should consider this when posting bail).
Right to Remain Silent:
The second most important right you control completely. You are not required to talk to the police when questioned about a crime. Exercise your rights. Do not give a statement. The Fifth Amendment and the Miranda decision of the Supreme Court generally state that the Fifth Amendment protects the innocent man, as well as the guilty. Anything you say likely will be tape recorded or videotaped with or without your knowledge. (Likewise, do not discuss facts of an alleged crime with family members, friends, co-workers, spouses, children, your accountant, etc. There is no privilege to protect your statements to these persons, so exercise your right to silence.)
Right to be Free From Unreasonable Searches or Seizures:
The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unless an officer presents proper credentials and a search warrant, do not allow any search of your body, home, garage, business, computer, car, boat or other dwelling or conveyance or property. 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. Although less likely, a "bad" cop could also "plant" evidence; therefore, never allow a search without a warrant. If asked whether it will be okay to search, just say, "No."
Right to Bail:
Generally, you have the right to a reasonable bail if arrested. The primary issues should be whether you are a risk of flight or a danger to the community. In Oklahoma County, there is a standard bail or bond schedule which is generally applied, but bond is occasionally denied. (Note. In Oklahoma County and many others, if you post bail the judges generally will not appoint counsel on the theory that if you can afford to bail out of jail, then you can afford an attorney. Though this may not be realistic or fair, you should consider this issue when posting bail).
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 process, they must attend hearings and give testimony (thus the right of confronting your accusers).
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. Also, your trial must be open to the public (except in certain juvenile settings).
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 (i.e., a "bench trial"). If you demand a trial, a jury of six or twelve qualified persons must be empanelled to hear your case.
Right to a Unanimous Verdict:
To be convicted, the jury must unanimously find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In most cases, twelve people must agree that you are guilty of the crime charged; 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).
Right to be Free from Subsequent Trials (Double Jeopardy):
The Fifth Amendment states that no person 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.
Right to Appeal: Generally, 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). You have the right to counsel on appeal and if you cannot afford an attorney, one is generally appointed for your first appeal. You generally do not have the right to counsel is subsequent appeals.
Right to Due Process of Law:
Generally speaking, 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.
Right to Equal Protection Under the Law: This right is intended to give all persons, regardless of race or creed or nationality or religion or gender, the same protections or rights. In other words, no person or class of persons shall be denied the protections enjoyed by other persons or classes in like circumstances.
Bill of Rights
The First Ten Amendments to the United States Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
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.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor 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; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.