The Rights of the Accused

If you are accused of a crime, you have certain rights that must be respected by law enforcement officers, prosecutors and others involved in the case. Some of these rights are outlined in the U.S. Constitution, defined by case law, and specifically described by Massachusetts laws.

First, let us consider Miranda rights. Miranda rights, discussed in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, refer to a warning given to a suspect when he or she is arrested or taken into custody on suspicion of committing a crime. You may already be familiar with these rights, which, though the specific wording may vary depending on the jurisdiction, usually sound something like the following:

  • “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you. Do you understand your rights as I have read them to you?”

You also have rights under Massachusetts General Laws Part IV, Title I, Chapter 263: “Rights of Persons Accused of Crime.”

  • A person who is arrested or taken into custody has the right to know, from the arresting officer, on what grounds the arrest is being made.
  • A person has the right to be protected against unlawful arrest and the use of excessive force in his or her arrest.
  • A person who is accused of a crime has the right, at trial, to be heard by counsel, to defend himself/herself, to produce witnesses, to produce evidence and to meet witnesses produced against him/her face to face.
  • A person who is arrested for operating under the influence (OUI) has the right to request, at his/her expense, to be examined by a physician of his or her own choosing.
  • A person accused of a crime can only be convicted by confessing guilt in open court, by pleading guilty, by jury verdict or by the judgment of the court.
  • If a person has been acquitted of a crime, he/she cannot be tried again for the same crime.
  • A person cannot be punished for a crime unless he or she has been legally convicted of this crime.

In addition to these rights, the U.S. Constitution offers protection from unlawful searches and seizures, which would include arrests, searches and seizure of evidence by law enforcement personnel without probable cause. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sets forth a number of important rights pertaining specifically to criminal proceedings, including:

  • The right to a grand jury;
  • Protection from double jeopardy (being tried twice for the same crime);
  • Protection against self-incrimination; and
  • The right to due process of law.

All of these rights and protections are offered to ensure the criminal justice system remains balanced and fair. If they are properly implemented, they can help prevent wrongful convictions and mistreatment of the accused. Unfortunately, mistakes occur and some law enforcement personnel or prosecutors may intentionally violate a suspect’s rights in their overzealous attempts to make an arrest and secure a conviction. Identifying these violations and exposing them can turn an entire case around, helping a defendant avoid a conviction and serious penalties.

At Keegan Law, we can offer a unique perspective on criminal cases because we have experience with both sides of investigations and criminal court proceedings. Both of our founding attorneys are former police officers, and one of our founders is a former prosecutor. This understanding of how law enforcement and the prosecution think and work can help us build stronger and more effective cases on our clients’ behalf.

If you have been accused of a crime, make sure your rights are protected to the fullest extent. Involve a Boston criminal defense lawyer from our firm, and feel confident with the knowledge that we will take no chances with your future as we fight for the best possible result in your case.