From DUI to homicide, facing any criminal charge in Arizona is a serious matter. The penalties established under the Arizona Revised Statutes for felonies and misdemeanors are significant. Having a conviction on your record can impact everything from your ability to find work to your right to vote. If you are facing a criminal charge, you need to do everything you can to avoid a conviction, and this starts with hiring a defense attorney to determine what defenses you have available.
There are different types of defenses to criminal charges. Some defenses focus on disputing the facts underlying the charges against you. For example, if you have an alibi, this may be enough to prevent the prosecution from proving that you are the one who committed the alleged crime. Then, there are “affirmative defenses,” which essentially involve saying, “Even though I took the steps necessary to commit a crime, I am not guilty because . . . .” Finally, there are the defenses afforded by the U.S. Constitution. If police or prosecutors violate your constitutional rights, you may be entitled to walk free regardless of whether you engaged in criminal activity.
7 Constitutional Defenses to Criminal Charges in Arizona
In this article, we are focusing on the constitutional defenses. Here are seven examples that you might be able to use to avoid a guilty verdict in Arizona criminal court:
#1 Violation of the Fourth Amendment Protection Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, the police cannot stop you without reasonable suspicion nor arrest you without probable cause. They cannot search unless they have a warrant based on probable cause or unless exigent circumstances justify a warrantless search and seizure.
If the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights in any way, then this violation may entitle you to have illegally-obtained evidence suppressed from your Arizona criminal case. If prosecutors cannot use the state’s evidence in court, then they will not be able to meet their burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
#2 Violation of the Fifth Amendment Protection Against Self-Incrimination
Under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, the police cannot force you to make any self-incriminating statements. This forms the basis for the portion of the Miranda warning that reads, “You have the right to remain silent.” If the police failed to read the Miranda warning as required, or if police investigators coerced you into giving a confession, then any self-incriminating statements you made may be inadmissible in court.
However, this does not mean that all self-incriminating statements are inadmissible. If you voluntarily gave a confession, then the prosecutor’s office will generally be able to use it against you. This is true whether (i) you confessed before the police were required to read the Miranda warning, or (ii) you voluntarily confessed after being read the Miranda warning in police custody.
#3 Violation of the Fifth Amendment Prohibition on Double Jeopardy
Under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, you cannot be prosecuted twice for substantially the same criminal offense. In order words, if you were acquitted, if you were found not guilty, if you were found guilty, or if you accepted a plea agreement, you cannot be tried again. This applies to the same charge and related charges arising out of the same set of events.
#4 Violation of the Sixth Amendment Right to Assistance of Counsel
Under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, you have the right to be represented by an attorney in all matters related to your criminal case. This applies from the time of your arrest through the end of your trial. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to be represented by a public defender in most cases, although you must be able to prove that you qualify as an indigent defendant.
#5 Violation of the Sixth Amendment Right to Confront Witnesses
Under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to question any witnesses who will be testifying against you. This protection is designed to prevent the prosecution from taking witness statements out of court and then presenting them as evidence at trial without the witness being present.
This protection also means that you also have the right to know what witnesses the prosecution intends to call during your trial. Under other constitutional provisions, you have the right to take “discovery” of the other evidence the prosecutor’s office intends to use as well.
#6 Violation of the Sixth Amendment Right to a Trial By an Impartial Jury
The Sixth Amendment also provides the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Before your trial, your attorney will have the opportunity to conduct “voir dire” to attempt to prevent biased jurors from hearing your case. However, the opportunities afforded during voir dire are limited; and, if your attorney cannot protect you from facing a partial jury, then you may have grounds to fight your conviction.
#7 Violation of the Sixth Amendment Right to a Speedy Trial
Finally, the Sixth Amendment provides all criminal defendants with the right to a speedy and public trial. While there is no set definition of “speedy,” this constitutional protection has been interpreted as requiring defendants to be tried within a reasonable amount of time after being charged. If an unreasonable delay in your case unfairly prejudices you, then you may have grounds to seek a dismissal.
This list is not exhaustive but highlights some of the key constitutional protections that apply in Arizona criminal cases. To learn more, schedule a free initial consultation with our criminal and DUI lawyers in Tempe and Phoenix, AZ at The Weingart Firm today.
Discuss Your Case with Phoenix Defense Lawyer and Former Arizona Criminal Court Judge Mark Weingart
Mark Weingart is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former Arizona criminal court judge. If you face criminal charges in Phoenix or Tempe and would like to learn more about how the Constitution protects you, we encourage you to schedule a free initial consultation. To request an appointment with Mr. Weingart as soon as possible, call 480-405-7922 or contact us online now.