Criminal Defendant Law and Legal Definition

Criminal defendant means the accused in a criminal action. A criminal defendant usually defends or denies the relief or recovery sought in an action or suit. A criminal defendant has the right to take the witness stand and to testify in his/her own defense. Hence, every criminal defendant is privileged to testify in his/her own defense, or to refuse to do so. “A criminal defendant's right to testify on his own behalf is found in three separate and distinct clauses of the United States constitution. First, the Fourteenth Amendment secures the right of a criminal defendant to choose between silence and testifying in his own behalf. Secondly, the Sixth Amendment's compulsory process clause allows a defendant to call witnesses on his own behalf, and included in the accused's right to call witnesses whose testimony is material and favorable to his defense, is a right to testify himself, should he decide it is in his favor to do so. Finally, the right of a criminal defendant to testify on his own behalf is also found in the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against compelled testimony. Every criminal defendant is privileged to testify in his own defense, or to refuse to do so. A defendant's right to testify is a privilege guaranteed by the constitution. It is a privilege personal to each criminal defendant. In the absence of a knowing, voluntary and intelligent waiver of this privilege, a criminal defendant is free to exercise this privilege as he or she sees fit.”[ Laws v. Warden, State Prison, 1990 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1197 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1990)].

Following is an example of a state statute(New York) defining the term ‘criminal defendant.’ Pursuant to NY CLS CPLR § 1310 9, "Criminal defendant" means a person who has criminal liability for a crime defined in subdivisions five and six hereof. For purposes of this article, a person has criminal liability when (a) he has been convicted of a post-conviction forfeiture crime, or (b) the claiming authority proves by clear and convincing evidence that such person has committed an act in violation of article two hundred twenty or section 221.30 or 221.55 of the penal law.