The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the country, and the first 10 amendments to the Constitution were known as the Bill of Rights. In total, there have been 33 amendments to the Constitution proposed by the United States Congress and sent to the states for ratification, with 27 being ratified by the requisite number of states and becoming part of the Constitution, six being adopted by Congress and sent to the states but not ratified by the required number of states, four still pending, one being closed and failing on its own terms, and one being closed and failing by the terms of the resolution proposing it.

Constitutional rights in Wisconsin

Defendants in criminal cases enjoy a wide range of benefits because of the Constitution. Any person facing criminal charges should be sure to work with an experienced Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer who will know how to protect their constitutional rights in criminal cases.

Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides multiple constitutional rights and limited governmental powers in criminal procedures. It provides that a person cannot be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against themselves, also known as the right to remain silent.

A defendant cannot be forced to speak. If a defendant chooses to remain silent, a prosecutor cannot call them as a witness, nor can a judge or criminal defense attorney force the defendant to testify.

Defendants in civil cases can, however, be forced to testify as witnesses in civil cases. The right of people to not incriminate themselves is often known as “pleading the Fifth” for this reason.

The Fifth Amendment also provides a right to indictment by a grand jury before any criminal charges for felonious crimes. Hurtado v. California, 110 U.S. 516 (1884), however, was a United States Supreme Court case allowing state governments to avoid using grand juries in criminal prosecutions.

Federal law currently allows for the trial of misdemeanors without indictments, and in trials of non-capital felonies, a prosecutor can proceed without indictments when defendants waive their Fifth Amendment right. The grand jury indictment clause applies only to felony charges in the federal court system.

The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment also prohibits any person from being prosecuted twice for the same crime. The Fifth Amendment states that no person can be subject to the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.

Sixth Amendment

The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment requires that in all criminal prosecutions, an accused person enjoys the right to be confronted by any witnesses against them. In other words, defendants have the right to cross-examine any witnesses and require them to come to court and subject themselves to questioning by a defense lawyer.

The Sixth Amendment also guarantees people the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a criminal defense lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who their accusers are, as well as the nature of the charges and evidence against them. The Sixth Amendment will also give a person the right to be tried by a jury, except for petty offenses that carry a sentence of six months or less of jail time.

Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U. S. 213 (1967) was a United States Supreme Court case that established the right to a speedy trial was fundamental and imposed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment on the states. In Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, the United States Supreme Court established a four-part test for determining whether a defendant has been deprived of their constitutional right: the length of a delay, the reason for a delay, the defendant’s assertion of their right, and the prejudice to the defendant.

The Sixth Amendment also provides that in all criminal prosecutions, an accused person will enjoy the right to have the assistance of legal counsel for their defense. If a person cannot afford an attorney (meaning they are indigent), a judge has to appoint a lawyer at government expense before sentencing a defendant to imprisonment.

Wisconsin Constitutional Rights

In addition to the federal constitution, Wisconsinites also enjoy many rights under the state constitution. Article I, Section 7 of the Wisconsin Constitution establishes many rights of an accused person.

In State v. Lindsey, 53 Wis. 2d 759, 193 N.W.2d 699 (1972), the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled that Gaertner v. State, 35 Wis. 2d 159 (1967) held that both the state and federal constitutions guaranteed an accused person the right to confront witnesses against them when a defendant has had a prior opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and former testimony can be introduced without violating either the constitutional mandates or the hearing say rule of evidence. In Sheehan v. State, 65 Wis. 2d 757, 223 N.W.2d 600 (1974), the Supreme Court of Wisconsin also ruled that because there was no showing that a witness was permanently ill, a defendant was denied their constitutional right to confrontation by the court allowing the use of the witness’s deposition.

In State v. Lenarchick, 74 Wis. 2d 425, 247 N.W.2d 80 (1976), the Supreme Court of Wisconsin held that admission of double hearsay did not violate a defendant’s right to confront witnesses. Nabbefeld v. State, 83 Wis. 2d 515, 266 N.W.2d 292 (1978) was another Supreme Court of Wisconsin case in which the court ruled that a defendant’s right of confrontation was not violated when preliminary examination testimony of a deceased witness was admitted at trial after the defendant had unlimited opportunity to cross-examine the witness and the testimony involved the same issues and parties as at trial.

In State v. Dorcey, 103 Wis. 2d 152, 307 N.W.2d 612 (1981), the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled that the admission of a statement by a deceased co-conspirator did not violate the right of confrontation. Similarly, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin held in State v. Bauer, 109 Wis. 2d 204, 325 N.W.2d 857 (1982) that after a witness died following testimony at a preliminary examination, admission of the transcript of the testimony did not deny the right of confrontation.

Contact Our Appleton Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

If you are currently facing criminal charges in Wisconsin and are wondering whether your constitutional rights are being violated, you are going to want to get yourself a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Hogan Eickhoff have decades of experience handling these types of cases and can help you exercise your rights.

Our firm is based in Appleton but defends clients all over Wisconsin, including Green Bay, Oshkosh, Chilton, Waupaca, and many others. Call (920) 450-9800 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.