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Last Modified: November 9, 2021


The accused refers to “the defendant in a criminal case.” Or Nolo’s Law Dictionary defines it as “a person charged with a crime.” Courts use the term ‘defendant’ instead of ‘accused’ in civil cases.

Example Sentence

The judge asked the accused to stand and state their plea.

Case Study

After his wife died from an accident involving a drunk driver, Jeff hired a lawyer to help him with the legal process. The state charged the accused, Brian, with several crimes. Jeff’s lawyer focused on getting Brian to compensate Jeff for all his losses. The state and Jeff’s lawyer mostly worked independently of each other. Brian had certain rights as an accused person to protect him from illegal treatment. However, he had to deal with two lawsuits, one as the accused (criminal charges) and one as the defendant (civil charges).

Other Important Information

The state formally charges the accused person at the arraignment. It will list all of the crimes that the state claims the accused committed. These charges usually fall into two categories:misdemeanors or felonies. After hearing the crimes against him, the accused usually pleads either guilty or not guilty. All accused people enjoy certain rights in the United States. Cornell Law School outlines them as the right to:

  1. a speedy and public trial,
  2. a trial by an impartial jury in the place where the crime was committed,
  3. be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation,
  4. confront the witnesses against them,
  5. obtain witnesses in their favor,
  6. not testify in court,
  7. not face the same charges a second time, and
  8. a lawyer for help in their defense.

Utah’s Constitution adds a couple more rights. The law will not require accused people to:

  1. have a spouse testify against them, and
  2. pay for any of the services guaranteed by these rights (for example, pay for an attorney).