What to Know About Your Rights in the Face of Criminal Charges


If you find yourself in legal trouble, there are some things that you need to know. Criminal charges can come with a lot of repercussions, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have certain rights under the legal system to protect yourself. Legal problems don’t mean you’re left unprotected. However, you have to understand those protections to ensure they’re enforced.

You Have the Right to Understand Potential Repercussions if Convicted

Far too many people walk into a courtroom to face their charges and are stunned by the outcome. You must know what repercussions you could face if found guilty of the charges. It’s your legal right to understand the potential penalty if you’re found guilty. The judge will read you your charges during your first court appointment. Listen carefully. As the judge reads through the charges, they’ll also read possible punishment for the charges.

Don’t walk into your court case blindly believing that, because it’s the first offense, the court will let you off lightly. For example, according to the Texas Department of Justice, a simple class B misdemeanor can mean spending 180 days locked up in jail and potentially paying a $2,000 fine. Don’t ignore your legal right to fully understand what you’re facing.

You Have the Right Not to Say a Thing

Many times, we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to criminal charges. You have the legal right not to respond to anything the arresting officer says. Most legal experts strongly suggest that you don’t respond. Today, technology can be both a friend and a foe in legal matters.

According to the University of California, in the Rialto police department, the use of force has dropped by 60% since the police started using body cams. This is good news, but remember that body cams record everything you say during an arrest. Stay quiet and exercise your legal right not to answer until you have a lawyer present. The old “anything you say or do can be used against you” saying is a fact.

You Have the Right to Legal Representation

The right to a lawyer is a very important right you should exercise whenever you’re charged with a crime. The court has to appoint you a lawyer if you can prove you are “indigent” by filling out paperwork with the court clerk. If the judge denies you a court-appointed lawyer, hire one. It may be one of the best investments you make.

Lawyers are more affordable than you think. According to the Washington State Bar Association, most high-quality lawyers in Seattle charge between $250-$375 per hour. A lawyer has the expertise to get you a better outcome, and you have the legal right to a lawyer. Take advantage of that right.

You Have the Right to a Trial

Most cases end in a plea deal. Plea deals are made between the prosecutor (the state) and the defendant. Typically, the plea deal will reduce the charges to a lesser charge with the understanding that the defendant will enter a guilty plea to the lesser charge. You can take the plea deal, but you don’t have to if you want to fight. You have the right to go to trial and present your case to a panel of your peers (jury). However, you’re strongly advised to listen to what your lawyer recommends. Sometimes, judgments are not in your favor, regardless of the evidence.

When you’ve been charged with a crime, the most important thing you can do to protect your rights is to hire an attorney. Don’t let your rights be violated. An attorney can protect your rights while also informing you of what to expect from criminal charges.