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12.5 The Rights of Defendants

The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution protect the rights of criminal defendants. They safeguard the individuals from abuses by the government and also provide protection to citizens against criminal activity. The Supreme Court is responsible of dealing with these issues.

12.5a The Fourth Amendment

By the Fourth Amendment, the Constitution states, "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." Thus a mere suspicion or affirmation that a person believes the accused to be guilty of some crime, is not sufficient grounds for granting a warrant for the arrest of a person or a search of his home or office. Facts sufficient for "probable cause" must also be available. Under the exclusionary rule the evidence secured by an illegal search cannot be admissible in court. This rule that was first applied to federal cases, has been extended to state courts from 1961, onwards. The good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment has been adopted by the Supreme Court under Justices Warren Burger and William Rehnquist, to permit exceptions to the rule requiring a warrant. Thus warrantless searches are permitted if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe a person has committed a felony, or has committed a misdemeanor in his presence.


12.5b The Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment has the provision that no person "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." The protection against self incrimination was made to strengthen a fundamental principle of Anglo-American justice that a man does not have the obligation to prove his innocence, instead it is up to the government to prove him guilty. This protection applies not only to an accused person upon trial before a jury, but also to proceeding before a grand jury, a congressional committee of inquiry, or any legal proceeding. Witnesses as well as persons on trial can avail of this protection. It is also applicable in civil and criminal cases.

Some of the significant rulings with regard to this provision include the case of Escobedo versus Illinois (1964), which gave a person the right to have an attorney present when the police questioned him. Further the Miranda warning originated from the case of Miranda versus Arizona (1966), which made it necessary for the police to inform a suspect of his constitutional rights. The guarantee against self-incrimination limits both the national and the state governments.

12.5c The Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment says "in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trials, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…" The minimum number of people constituting a jury could be set by the states. In the case of Gideon versus Wainright (1963), the Supreme Court ruled that state judges had to make sure that all persons accused of state crimes were adequately represented by trained legal counsel. Similarly, federal judges were required, (by the same amendment) to assign counsel to all poor persons accused of serious federal crimes. In 1964 the Congress made federal funds available to pay fees and cover some of the costs of attorneys assisting impoverished defendants.

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Index

12.0 Introduction
12.1 Perspective on Civil Liberties
12.2 The First Amendment:Freedom of Religion
12.3 The First Amendment:Freedom of Speech
12.4 The First Amendment:Freedom of Press
12.5 The Rights of Defendants
12.6 Implied Rights

Chapter 13





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