Legal Rights Afforded to the Accused
By Wendy Simon
When an officer arrests an individual, the accused is taken into custody. Similarly, when a grand jury returns an indictment or a prosecutor files an information, a judge or magistrate issues a warrant for the arrest of the person charged if not already under arrest, and the person is taken into custody. When people are taken into custody, before they are questioned, they must be informed that anything they say may be held against them in a court of law, and that they have the right to remain silent, consult with a lawyer before and during questioning, and have a lawyer appointed to represent them if they cannot afford one. The accused are also told that they can exercise these rights at any time.
These rights are known as Miranda Rights. This is because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1966 in Miranda v. Arizona that when law enforcement officers question people taken into custody, the evidence garnered from their interview cannot be used against them unless they have been informed of their constitutional rights to counsel and to remain silent.
If a person has been arrested without a warrant, law enforcement officials may hold him or her for a period of time necessary to handle certain administrative tasks (fingerprinting, checking to see if the person is the subject of any outstanding warrants, etc.). This time may vary depending on the facts of the particular case, but it’s generally quite brief, usually no more than 48 hours. The arresting entity may not hold the person beyond that time without an initial or first appearance or arraignment before a judge or magistrate.
A preliminary hearing is a very important step in the entire process. Usually the state will be required to call at least some witness or witnesses to the stand to convince a judge that probable cause exists. This process is important because...