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What are your fifth and sixth amendment rights?

Under the United States Bill of Rights, every individual citizen is protected by certain rights. In criminal defense cases, some specific rights are afforded to citizens by both the fifth and sixth amendments. Understanding your basic rights when faced with criminal charges is a foundation to building a solid criminal defense.

The Fifth Amendment states that you cannot be tried for a crime during peacetime and outside of a military environment unless a Grand Jury indicts you on charges. That means prosecutors have to have enough evidence or a case to convince a Grand Jury that the item is worthy of court attention in the form of a trial.

The amendment also protects you from double jeopardy, which involves being tried and sentenced more than once for the same crime. The Fifth Amendment also protects individuals from criminalizing themselves on the witness stand during testimony, which is why you see so many people plead the fifth in movies and television.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a public and impartial trial. Since people are involved in the trial process, courts work to provide as impartial a trial as possible, which is why some cases are moved to new jurisdictions. When defense can prove that a pool of local jurors cannot possibly be impartial, a judge might consider moving the case.

The rights afforded under these amendments seem simple, but they can be complex when practiced in real-life situations. Understanding how to protect your rights in the complex scenario or our modern legal system is important. Reaching out to a professional can help ensure your rights are considered.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union, "The United States Bill of Rights," accessed July 24, 2015

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