The jury trial is the pinnacle of all criminal rights in Monroe County. For the most part, these criminal defendant rights are uniquely American. 90 percent of the world’s jury trials take place in the United States.

If the jury trial is at the top of the pyramid, the following Constitutional rights form the base of the pyramid. Without these rights, jury trials would be unfair and meaningless. Additionally, unless an assertive Rochester criminal defense attorney stands up for these rights, they are just ink on paper. Aggressive Monroe County prosecutors might run right over criminal rights if they thought they could get away with it.

Reasonable Bail

The Eighth Amendment requires reasonable bail in all criminal cases. Cash bail amounts are usually based on the severity of the offense, the possibility of flight, the defendant’s ability to pay, and other factors. Because so many New York defendants are unable to afford any bail amount, Monroe County offers expanded pretrial release in many cases.

Reasonable Searches

Before they may enter private property, like a dwelling or a vehicle, officers must generally have search warrants based on probable cause. If they do not have warrants, a narrow search warrant exception must apply. Some common ones include:

  • Consent: Owners, or apparent owners, may give police officers permission to search their property. An apparent owner is someone with apparent ownership authority, like a roommate whose name is not on the lease.
  • Exigent Circumstances: If officers believe someone is in danger, they may enter the property and sweep through it to make sure everyone is okay. Officers commonly rely on this exception when they respond to disturbance calls and want to enter a place.
  • Pat Down: Your clothes are your private property. Officers may intrude on this property if they suspect you have a weapon. This suspicion must be based on specific, articulable facts, and not just a hunch.

These same rules apply with regard to seized evidence. If officers did not have a warrant, an exception must apply. If either the search or seizure was unreasonable (no warrant and no exception), any evidence may be inadmissible in court, under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.

Remain Silent

One of the most important criminal defendant rights is also one of the broadest ones. This Fifth Amendment right is not limited to oral court testimony or answering investigators’ questions. Defendants also generally have the right to refuse to perform DUI field sobriety tests, appear in lineups, or perform any other acts. Typically, these refusals are not admissible in court. During closing arguments, a Monroe County prosecutor cannot tell jurors the defendant must be hiding something because s/he refused to testify. There are some limits. For example, if a defendant refuses to provide a chemical sample in a DUI, that refusal may be admissible in court.

Criminal Defendant Rights and Legal Representation

Defendants do not just have the right to an attorney. They have the right to a competent attorney. This right sometimes comes up in forfeiture situations. The state cannot freeze the defendant’s assets if such action makes it impossible for the defendant to hire counsel of his/her choice. If the defendant is indigent, either a court-appointed attorney or public defender must be available.

Double Jeopardy

In most cases, prosecutors cannot keep placing the defendant on trial until they get the result they want. So, if a jury acquits a defendant of drug trafficking charges, the state usually cannot retry the defendant for drug possession. The separate sovereignties exception, which a divided Supreme Court recently reaffirmed, is the biggest exception. It often applies in drug cases or other offenses which are crimes under both federal and state law.

Confront Witnesses

The confrontation clause often comes up in sex crime cases. Typically, defense attorneys have the right to cross-examine accusers. This right is especially important in sex crime cases and other prosecutions that involve lay witnesses. It is easier to undermine this testimony and so create reasonable doubt.

Public Trial

Do not overlook this important right. Generally, we all behave better if we think someone may be watching. That’s especially true in the criminal justice system. Judges and prosecutors are more likely to respect criminal rights if the trial is open to the public. This right is sometimes an issue in the aforementioned sex crimes cases, especially if the alleged victim was a child.

Connect with an Experienced Lawyer

Criminal defendants have important rights. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.


The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

Ready to Take Charge of Your Case?

Call Today (585) 232-6830

The Law Office of Frank Ciardi - Rochester & Buffalo Criminal Defense Attorney

Call Us

Request a Free Consultation

    Visit Us

    45 Exchange Blvd Suite 400,
    Rochester, NY 14614
    View Map

    Follow Us