The first right and the most wonderful right that you have is the right to keep quiet. The most important right you have is to not say anything. It’s counterintuitive because when the police officer shows up and starts accusing you, the natural reaction is to say things, to defend yourself, to give context or excuses, or to even say, “I didn’t do it.” The initial reaction is to try and get out of it. And people think that by talking they can talk their way out of it. I have never had a client talk his or her way out of an arrest. Never. It doesn’t happen.
So the most important right to remember is that you have the right to remain silent. Officers will not tell you about that right and they don’t have to tell you in the beginning that you have the right to remain silent. You have to know that. (Learn more about your rights before and during an arrest; check out our FAQ page on Miranda rights. Link to FAQ#2)
There are lots of other rights that you have. For instance, you have the right to have bail set, and you have the right to have bail set in a reasonable amount. There are some charges where you do not get bail set. Those would be the most serious types of charges, such as capital murder cases. But for the typical defendant, you get bail set.
You have the right to have an attorney appointed to you. If you can’t afford one, the court will appoint one to you.
You have rights that relate to the charges and getting known what those charges are, so after you get arrested a judge will tell you and provide you a copy of the charges. You have a right to have those charges translated into a language you understand and have the proceedings in a language you understand.
You have the right to contest the charges and go to trial. At a trial, you have the right to remain silent. Your silence can never, at any point, be used against you—which is why being quiet is so effective.
At trial, you have several rights, such as calling witnesses, subpoenaing witnesses, and, if you lose, you have the right to the appeal.
Once you are arrested, there are a variety of rights that come with the arrest. And of course you have the right to consult with an attorney at some point.
There are many rights, but the most important thing to do is to talk to an attorney so that he can tell you everything you need to know about your rights.