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What is a criminal case?

A criminal case is a case between an individual and the state. The prosecutor representing the people of the state, files a criminal complaint, alleging a violation of the law, against the accused, the defendant in the case. If the defendant is found guilty of the alleged violations, s/he is subject to punishment by fine, time in jail, or both.The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the accused shall have the following rights:

  • The right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime was alleged to have been committed.
  • The right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.
  • The right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.
  • The right to cross-examine those witnesses against him.
  • The right to subpoena witnesses to appear in his favor.
  • The right to the assistance of counsel for his or her defense.

When a defendant enters a plea of guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to a charge, the following constitutional rights must be waived:


  • Right to trial by court or jury
  • Right to confront and cross-examine witnesses
  • Right to subpoena witnesses
  • Right against self-incrimination
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