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Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

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Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

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United States of America
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The Sixth Amendment (Amendment VI) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions. The Supreme Court has applied the protections of this amendment to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Text

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 wherein 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 defence.[note 1][1]


Rights secured

Speedy trial

Main article: Speedy Trial Clause

Criminal defendants have the right to a speedy trial. In balancing test for determining whether the defendant's speedy trial right has been violated. The four factors are:

  • Length of delay. A delay of a year or more from the date on which the speedy trial right "attaches" (the date of arrest or indictment, whichever first occurs) was termed "presumptively prejudicial," but the Court has never explicitly ruled that any absolute time limit applies.
  • Reason for the delay. The prosecution may not excessively delay the trial for its own advantage, but a trial may be delayed to secure the presence of an absent witness or other practical considerations (e.g., change of venue).
  • Time and manner in which the defendant has asserted his right. If a defendant agrees to the delay when it works to his own benefit, he cannot later claim that he has been unduly delayed.
  • Degree of prejudice to the defendant which the delay has caused.

In Strunk v. United States, 412 434 (1973), the Supreme Court ruled that if the reviewing court finds that a defendant's right to a speedy trial was violated, then the indictment must be dismissed and/or the conviction overturned. The Court held that, since the delayed trial is the state action which violates the defendant's rights, no other remedy would be appropriate. Thus, a reversal or dismissal of a criminal case on speedy trial grounds means that no further prosecution for the alleged offense can take place.

Public trial

Main article: Public trial

In 1 (1986), trials can be closed at the behest of the government if there is "an overriding interest based on findings that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest." The accused may also request a closure of the trial; though, it must be demonstrated that “first, there is a substantial probability that the defendant's right to a fair trial will be prejudiced by publicity that closure would prevent, and second, reasonable alternatives to closure cannot adequately protect the defendant's right to a fair trial."

Impartial jury

The right to a jury has always depended on the nature of the offense with which the defendant is charged. Petty offenses—those punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months—are not covered by the jury requirement.[2] Even where multiple petty offenses are concerned, the total time of imprisonment possibly exceeding six months, the right to a jury trial does not exist.[3] Also, in the United States, except for serious offenses (such as murder), "minors" are usually tried in a juvenile court, which lessens the sentence allowed, but forfeits the right to a jury.

Originally, the Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial indicated a right to “a trial by jury as understood and applied at common law, and includes all the essential elements as they were recognized in this country and England when the Constitution was adopted.”[4] Therefore, it was held that juries had to be composed of twelve persons and that verdicts had to be unanimous, as was customary in England.

When, under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court extended the right to a trial by jury to defendants in state courts, it re-examined some of the standards. It has been held that twelve came to be the number of jurors by "historical accident," and that a jury of six would be sufficient[5] but anything less would deprive the defendant of a right to trial by jury.[6] Although on the basis of history and precedent the Sixth Amendment mandates unanimity in a federal jury trial, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, while requiring states to provide jury trials for serious crimes, does not incorporate all the elements of a jury trial within the meaning of the Sixth Amendment and does not require jury unanimity.[7]

Impartiality

The Sixth Amendment requires juries to be impartial. Impartiality has been interpreted as requiring individual jurors to be unbiased. At voir dire, each side may question potential jurors to determine any bias, and challenge them if the same is found; the court determines the validity of these challenges for cause. Defendants may not challenge a conviction because a challenge for cause was denied incorrectly if they had the opportunity to use peremptory challenges.

Venire of juries

Another factor in determining the impartiality of the jury is the nature of the panel, or venire, from which the jurors are selected. Venires must represent a fair cross-section of the community; the defendant may establish that the requirement was violated by showing that the allegedly excluded group is a "distinctive" one in the community, that the representation of such a group in venires is unreasonable and unfair in regard to the number of persons belonging to such a group, and that the under-representation is caused by a systematic exclusion in the selection process. Thus, in 522 (1975), the Supreme Court invalidated a state law that exempted women who had not made a declaration of willingness to serve from jury service, while not doing the same for men.

Vicinage

Main article: Vicinage Clause

73 (1904), the Supreme Court ruled that the place where the offense is charged to have occurred determines a trial's location. Where multiple districts are alleged to have been locations of the crime, any of them may be chosen for the trial. In cases of offenses not committed in any state (for example, offenses committed at sea), the place of trial may be determined by the Congress.

Notice of accusation

Main article: Notice

A criminal defendant has the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. Therefore, an

Confrontation

Main article: Confrontation Clause

The Confrontation Clause relates to the common law rule preventing the admission of

The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses also applies to physical evidence; the prosecution must present physical evidence to the jury, providing the defense ample opportunity to cross-examine its validity and meaning. Prosecution generally may not refer to evidence without first presenting it.

In the late 20th and early 21st century this clause became an issue in the use of the silent witness rule.[14]

Compulsory process

The Compulsory Process Clause gives any criminal defendant the right to call witnesses in his favor. If any such witness refuses to testify, that witness may be compelled to do so by the court at the request of the defendant.[15][16] However, in some cases the court may refuse to permit a defense witness to testify. For example, if a defense lawyer fails to notify the prosecution of the identity of a witness to gain a tactical advantage, that witness may be precluded from testifying.[17]

Assistance of counsel

Main article: Assistance of Counsel Clause

A criminal defendant has the right to be represented by counsel.

In 455 (1942), the Court declined to extend this requirement to the state courts under the Fourteenth Amendment unless the defendant demonstrated "special circumstances" requiring the assistance of counsel.

In 1961, the Court extended the rule that applied in federal courts to state courts. It held in Hamilton v. Alabama, 368 367 (1979), the Court ruled that counsel did not need to be appointed if the defendant was not sentenced to any imprisonment.

As stated in Brewer v. Williams, 430 and that when a defendant is arrested, “arraigned on [an arrest] warrant before a judge,” and “committed by the court to confinement,” “[t]here can be no doubt that judicial proceedings ha[ve] been initiated.”

Self-representation

A criminal defendant may represent himself, unless a court deems the defendant to be incompetent to waive the right to counsel.

In Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008), the Court ruled that a criminal defendant could be simultaneously competent to stand trial and yet not competent to represent himself.

In Bounds v. Smith, 430

See also

Notes

References

External links

  • CRS Annotated Constitution: Sixth Amendment

Template:Sixth Amendment

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