Contact Us for a Consultation 207-536-7147

Constitutional Rights


You Have the Right to an Attorney

The right to have an attorney when you are accused of a crime is found in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It holds that:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall… have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

In addition, the State of Maine Constitution provides a similar protection. 

The right to a criminal defense lawyer is fundamental, and when it is erroneously denied, a defendant is afforded recourse. Statements and evidence that are products of this violation are able to be excluded. 

Choosing the Right Maine Defense Attorney

A criminal defense attorney is essential to ensure the defendant has somebody in their corner who understands the legal system and all of its complexities. At the Law Offices of Dylan Boyd, our defense lawyers work hard to prevent our clients from being wrongfully convicted or receiving excessive sentences. They make certain the constitutional rights of our clients are upheld. 

While the court is able to appoint an attorney to represent you if you are unable to afford one, it is almost always best to choose and hire your own attorney rather than rely on whatever attorney the court happens to appoint. There is too much at stake to leave your legal representation to chance. Contact us today.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent (and Not Incriminate Yourself)

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution holds that you have the right against self-incrimination. The Maine Constitution offers similar protection. This means that you cannot be forced to answer questions or otherwise provide information about yourself that will likely result in your facing criminal prosecution. The Fifth Amendment gives you “the right to remain silent.” 

The right against self-incrimination is a cornerstone of our justice system. The main purpose of the right against self-incrimination is to protect both the innocent and the guilty from being subject to government overreach. 

The Fifth Amendment applies to involuntary statements, such as statements that were not made freely and voluntarily or were made with a direct or implied promise or with improper influence. In other words, the right against self-incrimination applies to situations where there is an attempt to force you to make statements that will likely be used against you in a criminal proceeding. 

The Fifth Amendment also applies when the police arrest you but do not read you Miranda rights. Miranda rights include a statement that you have the right to remain silent and that if you do speak, anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. Failure to inform you of this right may render any statement you give to police inadmissible if you are subsequently charged with a crime. 

What Are Miranda Rights?

U.S. citizens have certain constitutional rights that protect them when interacting with the police and criminal justice system. These rights are known as Miranda rights, which were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona. 384 U.S. 436 (1966)

Anyone who has been (1) taken into custody and (2) interrogated by the police must first be read their Miranda rights.

  • Custody means a reasonable person would think they were in custody if they were in the same situation. If you are held against your will, you likely have been taken into custody. For example, being put into the back of a police car typically means you are in the custody of the police. 
  • Subjected to interrogation means the police ask questions specifically intended to elicit incriminating statements. For example, asking why you did it or where you hid an illegal item are questions that are subjecting you to an interrogation.

The reading of your Miranda rights is known as a "Miranda warning" because the police are warning you of your constitutional:

  • Right to remain silent, because anything you say can be used against in court and
  • Right to a lawyer, even if you cannot afford the services of a private attorney.

These rights, born out of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, are in place to ensure equal protection under the law. Violation of Miranda rights may be reason enough to suppress any incriminating evidence against you so long as that evidence was obtained from the violation. Motions to suppress or motions to exclude evidence flowing from a Miranda violation can be a critical part of your defense. In fact, getting charges dismissed can result from the finding that Miranda rights were violated in Maine.

There are, however, exceptions to Miranda warnings, and these exceptions apply to when police must give Miranda warnings and when evidence can be excluded for Miranda violations. The police can ask questions so long as they are not incriminating. There are also other exceptions. For example, traffic stops are not custodial. The police can pull you over for a traffic stop, and if that leads to a suspicion of intoxicated driving, the police can ask questions without reading your Miranda rights. 

Your Miranda rights (and a violation of these rights) depend on the exact circumstances of your encounter with the police. This is exactly why it is important to seek the advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney in Maine.

Can I Talk to the Police?

It is almost always a bad idea to talk to the police without the presence of an attorney. Some people, however, still want to talk. Miranda rights can be waived. Just remember: if a police officer delivers a Miranda warning, but you continue to talk, that information can be used against you as evidence in court. It is a much better idea to speak with a lawyer before speaking with the police.

You Have the Right Against Illegal Searches

An improper search in Maine is a search that violates an individual's constitutional right to privacy. 

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement in places where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes their residence, property, and body, as well as specific areas of a motor vehicle (such as a locked trunk), and certain public places (for example, a public restroom stall). The Maine Constitution affords similar protection.

For a search to be reasonable, and therefore proper:

  • Police must have probable cause to believe incriminating evidence exists and they obtain a search warrant from a judge, or
  • The circumstances make it lawful for police to conduct a search without a warrant. 

A proper, or lawful, search is conducted:

  • Under a proper warrant;
  • Without a proper warrant but where the police believe in good faith there is a lawful basis for the search (the “good faith exception”); or 
  • Where the circumstances mean a warrant is not required.

Situations that do not require a warrant include where:

  • Police search a person after a lawful arrest;
  • Police search a vehicle after a lawful stop;
  • There is a risk that incriminating evidence may be destroyed or concealed;
  • A person is briefly held for investigation during a “stop and frisk”; 
  • The search relates to a person the authorities are in “hot pursuit” of; or
  • The person being searched or the property owner consents to the search. 

In these situations, law enforcement can conduct a proper search without a warrant. 

An improper, or unlawful, search occurs when:

  • The police conduct a search without a warrant in circumstances where a warrant is required;
  • The police conduct a search under an improper warrant and the good-faith exception does not apply; or
  • The search is conducted in a way that violates a person's reasonable expectation of privacy.

If these circumstances exist, a defendant may file a motion with the court asking it to find the search improper and apply the "exclusionary rule." The exclusionary rule prevents the government from relying on evidence obtained as a result of a violation of an individual's constitutional rights. It means that any evidence found in the course of an improper search cannot be used as evidence against a defendant during a criminal trial. 

Choosing the Right Maine Defense Lawyer

If the prosecution is relying on evidence found during a police search, you should ask an experienced criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Dylan Boyd to review your case. They can advise you whether the correct search and seizure procedures were followed. 

If your constitutional rights have been violated by an improper search, our defense lawyers can help you argue that the evidence found during the search should be suppressed at your trial. If successful, this may weaken the prosecution's case against you and help you defend the charges. To learn more, contact the Law Offices of Dylan Boyd in Portland, Maine, by calling (207) 536-7147 or submitting an online form and schedule a consultation.

You Have the Right to a Jury Trial

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States holds that in all criminal proceedings, the accused shall have the right to “an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” There is a similar constitutional protection under Maine law.

The right to a jury trial is a way to prevent government oppression by having impartial “peers” decide the fate of an accused. It safeguards against heavy-handed and unfair prosecution as well as judges who may have bias. It prevents unchecked power and helps ensure justice prevails. 

The role of the juror is to be the trier of fact. The judge's role is to instruct jurors on what the law is in each case, and following those instructions, the jury is to render a verdict based on the evidence presented in court. 

Although you have the right to a jury trial, you may waive that right and instead choose to have a judge decide your case. In most cases, a jury trial is the best strategy, but in certain circumstances, a trial before a judge (a.k.a. a "bench trial") may be more advantageous. 

Have Your Rights Been Violated? Contact Us

A constitutional rights violation can be a powerful and effective basis for your defense when you have been charged with a crime. A skilled criminal defense attorney can use this violation to have charges dismissed, confessions tossed, and evidence excluded. This is why you should call the Law Offices of Dylan Boyd today at (207) 536-7147 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation.

Contact Us Today

We are committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense & OUI, Family Law & Divorce, Wills & Planning, and Mediation issues in Maine. We will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.