Your Rights & The Legal Process
In this section we will explore the legal rights of citizens in the United States. Globally speaking, our judicial system is unique in many ways. Since its inception, our country has been chiefly concerned with justice and fairness in its judicial proceedings. The founders of our great nation considered the rights of the common people so important that they incorporated them into the Constitution itself.
The Bill of Rights, which make up the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution, details many of the rights guaranteed to Americans. These amendments protect us from unreasonable search and seizure and give us our right to free speech, free press, freedom of religion, freedom to gather peacefully, freedom to petition the government when we feel our rights have been violated, and the freedom to bear arms.
The Bill of Rights also spells out the important rights of the accused . The infringement of these rights can drastically affect the outcome of criminal proceedings, typically in favor of the defendant. For example, if a police officer searches your home without a search warrant, the evidence collected may not be admissible in a criminal case. There are a number of similar laws designed to protect a defendant's rights .
People who have been convicted of criminal offenses and sentenced to incarceration (time spent in prison or jail) also have a number of special rights. These rights are outlined in the Prisoner's Rights section.
When convicted of a serious crime, a person loses several civil rights. The severity of this abdication of rights usually depends on the nature of the crime and the state in which the crime took place. The federal government also takes certain rights away from individuals convicted of some minor crimes. For example, after a DUI conviction, the offender may lose the right to drive for a specified period of time. In cases involving offenses against the government, the convicted individual may lose the right to vote or hold a government job.
In addition to the rights of the accused, our judicial system places enormous importance on victim's rights . Victims have a myriad of rights that are not to be violated throughout a criminal trial. Those who have suffered losses resulting from a criminal act also have the right to pursue a civil case to seek compensation from the responsible party. In a civil case, the victim who files the lawsuit is considered the plaintiff and the party accused of negligence or malice is the defendant .
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