Due Process in Orange County Criminal Trials
Every person in the United States has the right to due process during a criminal trial, no matter the charges they are facing. Our Constitution and laws have clearly outlined the procedures for a criminal trial, and any violation of those procedures is a violation of your legal rights. It is not only the duty of your lawyer to protect these rights, but also of the California courts, judges, and juries overseeing your trial.
Unfortunately, these rights are not universally upheld and can easily be violated during a criminal investigation. You should always work with a skilled and experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney who can uphold your rights and ensure that you receive proper treatment under the law. If you feel your rights have been violated during a criminal trial or investigation, reach out to the legal team at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti. We can explain each and every one of your rights and build a strong defense on your behalf. To discuss your case in a free consultation, contact us at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.
Due process is the legal concept that you are guaranteed certain rights under the law. Specifically outlined in the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, everyone in the United States, citizens and undocumented immigrants, has the “right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you.” Due process is also supported under the Fifth Amendment, which states that you cannot “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”; as well as the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees these rights to undocumented immigrants.
This means that everyone, from the police who investigated and arrested you to the judge who oversaw your trial, should approach your case with an unbiased outlook and respect your constitutional rights. While there are exceptions to certain rights, such as how a police officer can search a vehicle based on probable cause, the criminal justice system must abide by a defendant’s rights as much as possible.
While the Constitution outlines several different rights, the most important ones during a criminal trial include:
- The right to an attorney: Whether you are represented by a public defender or private defense attorney, you have the right to receive legal counsel the moment you are arrested for a crime.
- The right to not perjure yourself: During a criminal trial, you have a choice as to whether or not you wish to testify in your defense. If you do testify in your trial, you are required to answer all questions truthfully. However, if you choose not to take the stand, then you must rely on your attorney’s arguments and witness testimony to determine your verdict.
- The right to remain silent: When you are arrested, you have the right to avoid answering all questions asked by police and do not have to voluntarily give any information.
- Freedom from illegal searches and seizures: Whether you are in your home, on the streets, or in your car, a police officer cannot search you or your property without probable cause. If they illegally reach into your vehicle, force their way into your home, or take your bag or purse without probably cause or a warrant, any evidence they find may be considered compromised and invalid in your court case.
- Right to a speedy and public trial: The courts cannot make undue delay in hearing your case and must make every accommodation available to ensure you receive a proper trial under the law.
- Right to confront witnesses: Also known as the confrontation clause, defendants have a right to hear witness testimony and respond to it, except in extreme circumstances, such as witness tampering.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is also important to note that the prosecution must prove that you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard a jury must abide by, and if the prosecution does not have enough evidence to convict you of a crime, they cannot place you in prison or order you to pay fines.
Just as you have certain rights, you also have specific responsibilities in court. For one, you must abide by all court procedures. This means attending any hearings or court appearances on time and without delay. Missing a court appearance can result in you being charged with contempt of court, which will only worsen your case.
In addition, if you do choose to testify in your trial, you must answer every question honestly, as you are under oath. You may not use half-truths, change details in a later statement, or outright lie. If you initially choose not to testify, otherwise referred to as “pleading the Fifth,” then you cannot change your mind later and choose to provide some information and not the rest.
During your trial, your attorney should make every effort to defend you against the charges and ensure that you receive fair treatment by the court. One valuable set of tools are referred to as “motions.” Motions are methods by which a lawyer can request that the court and judge make certain decisions during the case. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are allowed to request motions for different reasons.
The most common motions your attorney can utilize in your defense include:
Motion to dismiss a charge: There may be several charges pending against you in a criminal case, some of which may overlap or be broadly defined. Your attorney may be able to have a charge dismissed on a technicality or because the arresting officer violated your rights.
Motion to reduce a charge: If you are facing felony charges, but your actions only constituted a misdemeanor, your attorney may request that the judge reduce the charges to properly meet the terms of the law.
Motion to suppress evidence: If evidence was acquired during an illegal search and seizure, that evidence could be suppressed by the court, meaning it cannot be used against you in a case.
Motion to preserve evidence: In some cases, the prosecution may get ahold of key evidence that could exonerate you. Your attorney can file a motion to have the evidence preserved and handed over to your attorney so that an expert can review it.
Motion to remove a strike: Otherwise known as the Romero Motion, your attorney can request that the judge not apply the Three Strikes Law enhancement to your case. Given that this law can add on years to your sentence, this motion is a very useful tool in your defense.
Motion to vacate a judgment: If you were coerced into pleading guilty or you were not fully aware of the charges against you at the beginning of your trial, your attorney should request a motion to vacate a judgment, effectively reversing your plea of “guilty” to “not guilty.” At this point, your trial will essentially restart, and you will have a second chance to defend yourself.
Motion for a new trial: If your case was mishandled in any way or new evidence comes to light, it is possible for the courts to reopen your case and hold a new trial. A motion for a new trial is typically requested after a judgment has been passed down by the court.
There are several other motions your attorney can utilize throughout your trial to ensure that you receive fair representation under the law. In addition, even if you are convicted of a crime, you may be eligible for an appeal.
It is entirely possible for your case to be mishandled by the system. Maybe a previous lawyer did not provide a strong defense, the prosecution mishandled the investigation, or the judge was biased against you. In any event, you may be eligible to file an appeal to have your verdict overturned.
Unlike an entirely new trial, an appeal is a review of the completed trial, typically because new evidence came to light. This can include evidence that shows you are innocent of a crime or that the prosecution mishandled your case. In these situations, your attorney has 30 to 60 days after your judgment to file a notice of appeals with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of California. The court must then review the facts of your case and make a final judgment.
However, final judgment is a misleading term, as California also allows defendants to file a Writ of Habeas Corpus. This legal defense is designed to protect defendants against illegal imprisonment or incarceration, but it can be used when you are already in custody, are on parole, or are on probation. These cases are extremely difficult to win, as it may be your last chance to be released from prison and exonerated of the crime. To successfully win in a case of Habeas Corpus, you should only trust your case to the most experienced and knowledgeable attorney.
At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our lead attorney is a member of the Nation's Top Attorneys and has experience defending clients in serious criminal cases throughout Orange County. We can provide in-depth legal knowledge and utilize all of our resources to have your charges reduced or dropped. Given our thorough understanding of California legal procedures and case law, we can also ensure your rights are protected throughout your trial. If you have been charged with a crime in Orange County, you should immediately contact an OC criminal defense attorney by calling our office at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.
Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.