What are my rights at a jury trial?

At a jury trial, you have several constitutional rights – the right to cross-examine witnesses against you, the right to subpoena documents and witnesses to trial, the right to testify in your own case, and the right to a jury itself. In addition, at a criminal trial, you also have the right to an attorney as well as the right against self-incrimination (i.e. the absolute right to refuse to testify).

The right to cross-examine witnesses is fundamental to a fair trial. In a criminal matter, you also have a constitutional right to confront your accuser. The California Supreme Court has recognized that unduly restrictive cross-examination can violate a Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation. (People v. Anderson (2001) 25 Cal.4th 543, 608.)

The right to subpoena documents and witnesses to trial is also an important right. Indeed, the Sixth Amendment provides for an accused “to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor”. Courts effectuate this right by giving each party “subpoena power” to use the Court’s power to subpoena persons and documents (called a “subpoena duces tecum” or “SDT”) to build the party’s case.

The right to testify in your own case is a very important right. In a criminal matter, you have an absolute constitutional right to testify on your own behalf although the Constitution does not explicitly grant such a right. (Rock v. Arkansas (1987) 483 U.S. 44.)

In a criminal case, you have the right to an attorney. “The Sixth Amendment provides, ‘In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.’ We have construed this to mean that in federal courts counsel must be provided for defendants unable to employ counsel unless the right is competently and intelligently waived.”
(Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) 372 U.S. 335, 339-340 [83 S.Ct. 792, 794, 9 L.Ed.2d 799, 802].)

You may, however, refuse to accept counsel if you prefer to represent yourself. “We confront here a nearly universal conviction, on the part of our people as well as our courts, that forcing a lawyer upon an unwilling defendant is contrary to his basic right to defend himself if he truly wants to do so.” (Faretta v. Cal. (1975) 422 U.S. 806, 817 [95 S.Ct. 2525, 2532, 45 L.Ed.2d 562, 572].)

In a criminal case, you have the absolute right to refuse to testify.

“Our holding will be spelled out with some specificity in the pages which follow but briefly stated it is this: the prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.”

(Miranda v. Ariz. (1966) 384 U.S. 436, 444 [86 S.Ct. 1602, 1612, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 706].) “It is now axiomatic that the defendant’s constitutional rights have been violated if his conviction is based, in whole or in part, on an involuntary confession, regardless of its truth or falsity.” (Miranda v. Ariz., supra, 384 U.S. at 464, fn. 33.)

In a criminal case, the Sixth Amendment also provides that one must have a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. One way to get a case dismissed is to file a Serna motion which is based on speedy trial rights.