One of the most shocking experiences an individual can face is to be arrested and charged with committing a crime. In today’s day and age, when it seems everything moves at an ultra-fast clip, being charged with a crime will bring every aspect of the suspect’s life to a screeching halt, as he/she must focus nearly all of his/her attention on the criminal case. Crucial to getting through this period is retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney, especially one who understands the protections and rights afforded to criminal defendants by the U.S. Constitution. Recently, however, many states have tried to define specific limits upon these rights through the passage of Victims’ Rights Laws. In fact, these Laws, named “Marsy’s Laws” for the person who’s story became the Laws’ impetus, are on the books in six states, and will appear on ballots in the upcoming election in six states. However, while it will appear on the Kentucky ballot, as a judge recently blocked its certification pending appeal, noting the vagueness of its ballot description fails to explain the full impact of the Law. A discussion of the conflict between the rights afforded to criminal defendants by the U.S. Constitution and rights afforded to victims by Victims’ Rights Laws will follow below.
One of the unique aspects of the American system of justice is the right of due process, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It is a maxim in the American system that it is much better to allow nine guilty men go free than to incarcerate one innocent life. Owing to this, although these rights are of utmost importance to our justice system, they are not the only rights accorded to defendants. Some of the other rights include the following:
- The right of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt;
- The right to remain silent;
- The right to confront witnesses;
- The right to have a public and speedy trial in front of a jury;
- The right to be represented by an attorney, or to receive adequate representation; and
- The right to not be tried twice for the same offense.
Victims’ Rights Laws
While the intent of Victims’ Rights Laws may appear to be, on their face, an attempt to protect the victim of a crime, in practical terms, they may infringe upon the rights given to criminal defendants. In California, the Victims’ Rights Law includes the following provisions which may conflict with Constitutional rights:
- The right to be reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of the defendant;
- The right to have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in fixing the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant;
- The right to prevent the disclosure of certain confidential information or records to the defendant;
- The right to refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, or to set conditions on such an action;
- The right to a speedy trial, and a prompt conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings; and
- The right to restitution.
As can be imagined, extending these rights to the victim would act to prevent the defendant from exercising his/her right to confront his/her accusers, to adequately prepare for his/her defense and to have a speedy trial for the defendant, as opposed to the victim. Additionally, due process would be violated if victims are given a right to restitution, as opposed to the ability to claim restitution. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help ensure that the rights afforded to defendants are, in fact, maintained.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are sufficiently protected. The attorneys at Manshoory Law Group have years of knowledge and expertise in criminal law, and they will do their best to ensure that you are given the best possible chance at defending the charges asserted against you. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.