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Know Your Rights: 3 Important Constitutional Amendments

Even criminal defendants are protected by a number of constitutional rights. Of course, these rights won't do you much good unless you're aware of them.

Since you never know when you may have a run-in with the law, it's important to familiarize yourself with your rights as a suspect or criminal defendant. Below, we've outlined three of the most important constitutional amendments for criminal defendants.

Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects your right to privacy. Every citizen has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. That applies not only to physical searches of your person, but also to warrantless searches of your home or car. If police violate your Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an unlawful search, any evidence collected during the search will likely be excluded as evidence against you at trial.

Fifth Amendment: Miranda Rights

You've probably heard it recited in countless films and TV shows ("Cops" anyone?): "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law..."

The Fifth Amendment ensures that you're read your Miranda rights when you're taken into custody. Miranda rights include the right to remain silent, allowing you to avoid making any self-incriminating statements. If the arresting officers fails to read you your rights, any statements or confessions you make will be presumed involuntary and excluded at your trial.

Sixth Amendment: The Right to Counsel

The right to a jury trial wouldn't mean much, if defendants weren't also granted the right to counsel. Both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments give defendants the right to be represented by an attorney while in custody and during criminal proceedings. Defendants who are unable to pay attorney's fees are typically provided with court-appointed attorney. In addition, criminal defendants have the right to competent counsel. That means you may be entitled to a new trial if your lawyer proved to be incompetent.

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