At one time or another, almost everybody will be involved in the legal system. It could be anything from a speeding ticket to a major accident. Whatever the case, there are some common threads that all cases share under due process of law. Be aware of these rights as you prepare to walk into the court room.
The Right to an Attorney
Whether the case is civil or criminal, you have the right to be represented by an attorney. It’s constitutional. Any judge in the country is required to give you a reasonable time to retain an attorney. However, you have no right to a public defender in a civil case.
The Right to a Trial
Even if it’s jaywalking, you have the right to a trial. In a bench trial, the judge hears all of the evidence and decides the case. In a jury trial, anywhere between six and 12 jurors will decide the case. If it’s a personal injury case, they’ll also decide on the amount of damages to be awarded.
You have the right to compel the presence of any witnesses at a trial by timely issuing, and serving them with a subpoena that designates when and where they are to testify. According to Johnston Law Firm, if there are witnesses against you, you also have the right to cross examine them at trial.
In civil cases, misdemeanors, and felonies, you have the right to obtain copies of every piece of paper your opponent has against you except for their work product. Discovery is a reciprocal right, so in civil cases your opponent also has the right to everything that you have. Discovery becomes particularly complicated in personal injury cases. This is ordinarily in the realm of the personal injury lawyer, as written questions are usually exchanged between the parties. They’re to be answered in writing under oath. Depositions are also taken where oral questions are asked of the witnesses in the presence of the parties’ attorneys and a court reporter. If at trial, your answers to questions are contradictory to either your interrogatory answers or deposition testimony, you can be impeached with your prior inconsistent statement that you made under oath.
It’s highly recommended that you retain an attorney before ever walking into a courtroom. These are only few of the many rights that you have in court. To the experienced attorney, they’re only the tip of the iceberg.
“Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.”