Know your rights

1.       You have a right to a lawyer.

Your lawyer will effectively represent you throughout your case and will meet with you and help you understand what is happening. He or she will advocate for you at all court hearings and file all the important paperwork needed to make sure you have a top-notch defense. If the Public Defender’s Office cannot represent you due to a conflict of interest, you will be given an attorney from the Alternate Defender’s Office, also at no cost.

2.       You have a right to a speedy trial.

You have a right to demand a speedy trial. Sometimes it’s better to give up this right if more time is needed for you and your lawyer to prepare your case-- this is a decision that you and your lawyer should talk about. If you are dealing with a probation violation, then there is no right to a speedy hearing, but your hearing must be held within a “reasonable time.”

3.       You have a right to a jury trial.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, you have the right to demand a trial by jury. This means that 12 jury members picked from the community will carefully review the evidence and decide whether you are guilty or innocent. According to the law, you are innocent until proven guilty. This means that you cannot be found guilty of a crime unless 12 people on the jury all find you guilty by “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

4.       You have the right to remain silent.

As you may have heard in the movies, “anything you say to the police can and will be used against you in court,” so you should always stay silent. You do not have to answer questions from the police at all and we recommend that you don’t. If the police try to ask you questions or if they ask to “hear your side of the story,” you should refuse to talk to them and demand to speak to your lawyer. Once you ask to speak to your lawyer, they have to stop questioning you.