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You have the right to a fair trial, but what does that mean?

If you are facing criminal charges, especially for a violent or drug-related crime, you certainly hope your day in court will bring about a positive resolution to your case. Whether you are facing charges in federal or New Jersey court, the penalties for a conviction for such crimes can be quite severe. You may be facing the possibility of decades in prison.

Because of the heavy penalties, you may feel a certain urgency about whether you will get a fair trial. It is easy to feel that everyone is against you, but there are certain safeguards to protect your right to a fair trial. However, do you know how to recognize whether you are receiving every advantage the U.S. Constitution provides for those facing criminal charges?

What does the Constitution say?

While you may hear talk about getting a fair trial, the right to a fair trial is not an explicit tenet of the Constitution. However, there are several amendments that spell out certain rights for the accused, and the judicial system includes these in its understanding of fairness in the courtroom. Some rights to which the Constitution entitles you include the following:

  • The jury who hears your case must be impartial, which case law and tradition accepts as being a group of fellow citizens who have no connection to you, no biases against you and no stake in how the case turns out.
  • The government, including police and the prosecutor, must bring its case against you without violating your civil rights or taking unfair steps to jeopardize your chances for a positive outcome for your case.
  • If someone accuses you of committing a crime, you have the right to see that person in court, to hear the evidence against you and to cross-examine your accuser.
  • You have the right to present your own witnesses and evidence as part of your defense against the charges.

One critical element of a fair trial is having the right to consult with a legal professional. The law can be complex and confusing, and you have a lot at stake if you are facing charges that place your future at risk. As early as possible after your arrest, it is wise to have an advocate in a skilled criminal attorney who can represent you and ensure you receive fair treatment throughout the process.

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