Important Rights in State Courts

SOME OF YOUR IMPORTANT RIGHTS IN STATE COURT

  • You have a right to refuse to make any statements. If you have a lawyer, never make a statement to anybody without talking to your lawyer first. Do not send emails to anyone about the facts of your case. Do not talk to your family or friends about the facts of your case, either in person or over the phone.
  • If you are charged with a felony, you have a right to have your case presented to a grand jury where a group of citizens vote as to whether there is probable cause to believe you committed the crime charged. If you are arrested for a felony offense before an indictment is returned, you have a right to an "examining trial" where a judge determines if probable cause exists to believe you committed the crime charged.
  • If there is even the possibility you could be put in jail upon conviction of the offense, you have a right to be represented by an attorney and to have an attorney appointed by the court if you can show that you are unable to hire an attorney.
  • You have a right to have the state prove any charge against you "beyond a reasonable doubt." The "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard is the highest standard of proof that exists in the American justice system.
  • You have a right to a jury trial (a jury consists of six persons in misdemeanor cases and twelve persons in felony cases). You have a right to have the jury decide your guilt and innocence, and, if it finds you guilty, you have a right to have the jury decide your sentence or punishment.
  • If there is a trial, you have a right to testify at the trial. On the other hand, you cannot be forced to testify and, if you chose not to testify, that fact cannot be used against you.
  • You have a right to use subpoenas to make witnesses come to court and testify on your behalf at any trial.
  • You have a right, if there is a trial, to have your lawyer cross examine the state's witnesses.
  • If you lose at trial (and in some cases if you plead guilty), you have a right to appeal your case and, if you cannot afford a lawyer, you have a right to an appointed lawyer on appeal.