Your Rights if Convicted

Being convicted of a crime is a serious matter. But having a criminal conviction on your record does not mean you lose all of your rights. Here's a look at what rights you have after you've been convicted of a criminal offense.

Your Right Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibits punishment that is "cruel and unusual" - what constitutes cruel and unusual, though, is a slightly murkier matter. Currently, the U.S. legal system follows a number of guidelines that define which punishments are allowed and which ones aren't.

  • Punishment should be appropriate. While the justice system doesn't follow the Old Testament "eye for an eye" law of reasonable punishment, it does try to match the punishment with the crime committed. That's why murder comes with tougher potential sentences than trespassing.
  • Punishment should not violate human dignity. In order to be legal, punishment in the U.S. must not debase the basic human rights of those punished.
  • Punishment should be restricted. Though the death penalty is still legal in most of the country, it has been outlawed in certain states and for certain groups of people. Juveniles and the mentally handicapped, for example, cannot be sentenced to death.

If you have reason to believe that you have been treated to punishment that is cruel and unusual, you can contact a criminal defense lawyer to advise you about the next steps to take.

Your Right to Legal Counsel on Your First Appeal

The Sixth Amendment grants defendants the right to a lawyer during a criminal case and the Supreme Court has ruled that defendants also have the right to a lawyer during the first appeal of their conviction.

State-provided defenders are available to those who cannot afford to hire a private defense lawyer for their appeals. Common reasons that might lead to the appeal of a criminal case include:

  • Error of law: In this instance, some mistake made during the legal proceedings could prompt a court to accept an appeal. In order to determine whether any error of law was committed, a defense lawyer must review the case.
  • Improper evidence submission: A defense lawyer who discovers evidence that should have been submitted to the court during the first trial but was not may use this information as grounds for appeal.
  • Violation of defendant's rights: If a defense lawyer can prove that the defendant's rights were somehow violated during the course of a trial, this too can be used as part of a legal appeal.

It is important to note that you are only guaranteed the right to legal counsel on the first appeal of a case. In any subsequent appeals, you are not guaranteed this right.

Your Rights with Employers after Conviction

Having a criminal record can affect your ability to get a job in your life after conviction. Certain jobs legally can and do prohibit those with a criminal record from being hired. There are plenty of jobs, though, that those with convictions can get.

The type of crime and how recently it was committed might also affect your ability to find employment.

If you have any questions about your rights after a criminal conviction, you can ask a criminal defense lawyer for more information.

Criminal Defense News

Obama Administration Pledges to Reduce Mandatory Drug Crime Sentencesposted on: September 13th 2013

By John Clark This week, the Obama Administration announced its intentions to reduce mandatory ... read more

Judge Refuses to Allow Drug Photos in Trayvon Martin Murder Trialposted on: May 31st 2013

By John Clark A judge in Florida made a key ruling this week in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin, ... read more

Criminal Defense Attorneys Donít Expect Charges Against Manti Te'oposted on: January 24th 2013

By John Clark According to at least one ... read more