Criminal Law and The Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights and outlines the rights that citizens of the United States have in relation to criminal prosecutions in federal courts. The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The protections of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution are applied by the Fourteenth Amendment, which details each citizen’s right to due process. Due process is a principle that the government must respect all of the legal rights of a citizen as defined by the law of the land. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution claim that:

  • No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law
  • Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

Stictly quoted, the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads like this:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

What exactly are my rights under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States?

The rights protected by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States are:

  • A speedy trial: If a defendant feels as if their trial has not been speedy then four criteria have to be met. Those four criteria are the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, the time and manner in which the defendant has asserted his/her right, and the degree of prejudice to the defendant which the delay has caused.
  • A public trial: All defendants have the right to a public trial but some can be closed to the public if the government feels that having the trial open to the public will hinder the case.
  • Jury: Defendants have the right to a jury depending on the nature of the offense that has been committed. Most cases that involve petty offenses and do not require more than six months in court as a penalty usually do not require a jury.
  • Notice of Accusation: Defendants have the right to notice of accusation. Notice of accusation is to be informed of nature and cause of the accusation being brought against him or her.
  • Confrontation: Confrontation is the ability of the defense to confront, or cross-examine, all witnesses involved in the case.
  • Counsel: Counsel is the right of a defendant to choose an attorney or attorneys to represent them or they have the option of representing themselves in a court of law.
  • Self-Representation: Defendants in court cases have the right to represent themselves in a court of law. The state cannot interfere with any defendant that wishes to represent themselves. The state can only interfere when they feel that the defendant is not fully competent to adequately proceed without proper legal counsel. Although this right has been granted, it is always recommended that professional counsel be consulted.

Rights protected by the Sixth Amendment of the United States are only available to legal residents of the United States and legal visitors of the United States. If someone is arrested that is not a citizen of the United States then the defendant is legally allowed to contact the consulate of their country before a questioning period begins.

 

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