What Are Your Constitutional Rights as a Criminal Defendant in Pennsylvania

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When you are accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, you can find your freedoms threatened. Depending on the type of crime you are accused of, you can end up on probation, paying expensive fines, or even going to jail. You may also find your future permanently changed by the criminal accusation, as conviction could interfere with future employment and possibilities. 

It may feel as though you have few rights left. However, according to Pennsylvania and Federal law, criminal defendants do have several important rights that must be protected. By working closely with a criminal defense attorney at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., you can get more information about your specific rights and a lawyer on your side who will fight to protect them.

A Criminal Defendant’s Constitutional Rights in Pennsylvania

There is a lot of overlap between Pennsylvania and Federal law. Some of these rights below may sound familiar. If you are unsure about any of your rights, a criminal defense lawyer can answer any questions you have. 

1. You Have the Right to Due Process

The right to due process is, in many cases, one of the most important for criminal defendants. You have the right to have your criminal case investigated and your conviction evaluated according to established legal procedures. First, that means that your other rights should not be investigated, either during the investigative process or during the trial. It also means that in order to convict you of a crime, the police must have adequate evidence against you. These protections can prove invaluable when you find yourself in the midst of a criminal case. 

2. You Are Protected Against Incriminating Yourself

If you were arrested, the police may have read your rights, including reminding you that you have the right to remain silent. The police cannot compel you to speak, especially without an attorney present. Furthermore, you have the right to choose not to testify against yourself in trial. This right also protects one spouse against having to testify against the other, further protecting your rights. 

3. You Have the Right to an Attorney to Represent You

You do not have to represent yourself when you find yourself facing criminal charges. Instead, you can exercise the right to have an attorney represent you in court and in your dealings with the police. If you cannot afford an attorney, the state may provide you with a public defender who will fight to protect your rights. On the other hand, you also have the right to hire your own attorney. 

An attorney can prove invaluable as you manage the investigation and trial process. An attorney can:

  • Make sure you know your rights and how to exercise them: Many people do not realize the full extent of their rights, which means they may end up violating some of them.
  • Help collect evidence on your behalf: The right evidence can make a huge difference in a criminal case. Your attorney can collect that evidence and ensure it is documented as part of the case, establishing your innocence or establishing reasonable doubt in the eyes of a jury.
  • Protect you against saying something incriminating: An attorney can guide you about when to speak to the police or in court and what you should say if you do so.
  • Protect your freedoms: Working with a criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania is essential when you find yourself accused of a crime, as a criminal defense attorney can help protect your freedoms. Your defense attorney may fight to reduce jail time or avoid a criminal record that could interfere with your future.
  • Present your case in court: You need an attorney to clearly establish the evidence in your favor and ensure that it is presented correctly if your case goes to court.

Handling your case alone can mean a significant loss of long-term freedoms. By working with an attorney, on the other hand, you can feel much more confident that you have protected your rights as you moved through the claim process. 

4. You Have the Right to Know About Charges and Evidence Entered Against You

As a criminal defendant, you have the right to know what the prosecution has to say about your case. You have the right to know:

  • What charges the prosecution has issued
  • What evidence the prosecution will present at trial
  • Any witnesses that the prosecution will bring to the stand

Your lawyer will interact with the prosecution to ensure you have all the necessary information about your case. The prosecution cannot present that evidence at trial without warning. 

5. You Have Protection Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure

The prosecution cannot search your home or vehicle without a warrant or just cause. Your lawyer can help determine how evidence against you was gathered and whether you can get it thrown out because the police did not follow those clear, established guidelines. 

6. You Are Protected Against Double Jeopardy

Once you have been tried for a crime, if you plead guilty, are acquitted prior to or during the trial, or end up with a jury verdict in your case, you cannot be tried again for the same case. 

7. You Are Protected Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The protection against cruel and unusual punishment protects against unconstitutional, unreasonable punishment that would cause significant harm to the defendant. Your lawyer can help you fight against any potentially unconstitutional punishment. 

8. You Have the Right to Trial by a Jury of Your Peers

Your attorney will work with the prosecution to select a fair and impartial jury of your peers, who will be responsible for determining whether you will face criminal punishment as a result of the charges against you. Trial by jury is one of the most fundamental rights of the American justice system, as it helps protect against overreach by law enforcement officers. 

Contact a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer

Any time you find yourself facing criminal charges, having a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer on your side is essential. A lawyer can make sure that your rights are protected and that you receive the support you need as your case is investigated and tried. Contact Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., today for more information. You can call us at (215) 822-7575 or fill out our contact form to arrange a consultation.