What Are My Rights If I’ve been Charged with a Misdemeanor?

December 9, 2013  |  Adriel B. Villarreal

Being charged with a crime does not deprive you of your rights. Indeed, being charged with a crime activates some very specific rights that will follow you throughout a criminal proceeding.
You have the right to an attorney.
You always have the right to hire an attorney. However, you may not automatically qualify for a public defender.
If you are charged with a “petty” misdemeanor there’s no danger of jail time, so you won’t be eligible for a public defender. If you’re charged with a misdemeanor you could face jail time (90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine), so you could be eligible if you fill out a family financial application to determine whether or not you qualify.
Even if you are charged with a petty misdemeanor you may well still wish to have an attorney by your side.
You have the right to a trial.
You are presumed innocent unless the state can prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You always have the right to a trial before your peers.
You also have the right to subpoena and cross examine witnesses as a part of this process.
You have the right to remain silent.
The right to remain silent is not just a television cliché. You can choose to remain silent. You don’t have to testify in your own case. And anything you say can be used against you.
You have the right to a written statement of charges.
In a misdemeanor case you can always ask for a formal complaint, even if you’ve been ticketed. This complaint will contain a lot more information about your charges, so it’s rarely a bad idea to ask for one.
You have the right to meet with the prosecutor.
The prosecutor can add charges, dismiss charges, or amend charges. The prosecutor is the only person with this ability. Sometimes it can be productive to meet with the prosecutor, but you should have a qualified attorney by your side when you do so.
Charged is not convicted.
Always remember that you have not been convicted yet. You do have options! Your criminal attorney can advise you of those options. If you’re in trouble, call BGS. We’ve been helping people in the Minneapolis metro area who are in tight spots for over 75 years, and we can help you, too.