In this melting pot we call America, neither race, religion, national origin, gender or age unites us as a society. The ties that bind us together as Americans are found in our Constitution.
Ratified by the 13 original colonies in 1787, our Constitution serves two purposes: it establishes the structure of our federal government and protects our individual liberties. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, guarantees the civil liberties which define us as Americans.
Many Americans are unaware of their constitutional rights. Many more take them for granted – until their rights are threatened. In law school, I discovered a passion for defending the Constitution. Some things are worth fighting for and I believe our civil liberties are one of those things. For over 30 years, I have defended our Constitution one case at a time.
I am deeply dismayed when I hear someone say that a person accused of a crime got off on a legal technicality. I have never considered our Constitution to be a legal technicality.
Most of the constitutional protections for criminal defendants are found in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.
The Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures. The police must have reasonable suspicion to believe we are committing a crime in order to stop us, and probable cause to believe we have committed a crime in order to arrest us.
Generally, the police need a warrant to search our property or arrest us in our homes. Exceptions to this general rule, however, include automobile, consent and inventory searches, as well as searches incident to arrest, exigent circumstances, and the plain view doctrine.
The Fifth Amendment requires a grand jury to return an indictment against us before the federal government can prosecute us for a felony offense. It also prohibits double jeopardy – prosecuting us twice for the same crime.
The Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination protects our right to remain silent and not be forced to testify against ourselves. Its due process clause prevents the government from taking our life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
Three essential aspects of due process are the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof, and the standard of proof. Unlike many other countries, in America, if we are charged with a crime we do not have to prove our innocence, testify, call witnesses, or present any evidence at trial. Instead, the burden of proving our guilt is solely, exclusively, and always on the government. Moreover, the government has the burden of proving our guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – the highest standard of proof recognized by our legal system.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees our rights to a speedy and public trial before a jury. We can only be convicted by a unanimous verdict, meaning each juror must be convinced the prosecution has proven our guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Sixth Amendment also guarantees our rights to confront our accusers, cross-examine witnesses who testify against us, and require witnesses to testify for us. If we are unable to hire a lawyer, the Sixth Amendment requires the court to appoint one to represent us.
Defending Your Constitutional Rights
My practice is limited to criminal defense and civil liberties. My passion is defending the Constitution. I have been fighting for your rights since 1984. I aggressively defend the Constitution one case at a time – yours. If you are under investigation, charged with a crime, awaiting trial, filing an appeal, or seeking post-conviction relief, contact me to schedule a free initial consultation to see how I can defend your constitutional rights.