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A Defendant’s Sixth Amendment Rights

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In the Bill of Rights, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution reads as follows:

“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 witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”

Ultimately, the Sixth Amendment describes the rights which an accused must be given during a criminal trial. Through case law, the right to counsel has been extended to apply during a suspect’s interrogation, the actual trial, sentencing and the initial portion of an appeal. Sixth Amendment rights will apply to all individuals who are arrested in the United States, regardless of whether or not they are an American citizen.

Rights Protected Under the Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment describes several different rights. Federal and State Courts have further defined the rights granted in the Sixth Amendment through case law. These rights are as follows:

  • Speedy trial – Criminal trials must be heard in a reasonable period of time.
  • Public trial – Unless the government files a motion to close the trial, a defendant has the right to have the public present to watch the proceedings.
  • Jury – Defendants have a right to a jury for all serious crimes. Some misdemeanors may not require a jury trial, because the potential jail sentence is so short.
  • Notice of accusation – Defendants have the right to know what crimes they are accused of committing.
  • Confrontation – Defendants have the right to cross-examine all witnesses who may come forward and testify against them.
  • Counsel – All defendants have the right to have an attorney represent them at trial. If a person cannot afford an attorney, then the government will appoint an attorney to represent them.
  • Self-representation – Conversely, if a person wants to represent themselves, the Sixth Amendment provides that a person may do so. Although this right has been granted in the Constitution, it is always recommended that a defendant seek professional counsel.

As criminal cases continue to be heard, these rights will continue to evolve. Each right can become very complicated, depending on the circumstances surrounding it.

For a free consultation, reach the Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky at 713-227-0087.

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