The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects important rights for people who are accused of a crime. Like the Fifth Amendment, it keeps the government from using its power to unfairly prosecute citizens.
Right to a Speedy Trial
All defendants should be given a speedy trial. If there is a delay in the trial, a court should look at four things:
- How long was the delay?
- Why was the trial delayed?
- Did the accused person assert their Sixth Amendment right?
- Could the delay make the jury biased against the accused?
If a defendant’s right to a speedy trial has been broken, the charges against them must be dropped.
Right to Impartial Jury
Most of the time, someone accused of a crime has a right to a trial in front of a jury.
Juries aren’t allowed to be biased for or against the defendant.
Right to Notice of Changes
Every citizen has the right to know the “nature and cause” of an accusation against them. This means the government has to formally present charges and explain them to the accused person.
The Right to Confront Witnesses
Anyone charged with a crime must be allowed to confront and question the witnesses against them.
Defendants are also allowed to bring witnesses that might help them.
Right to an Attorney
The Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right to have an attorney. People are allowed to defend themselves in court if they are accused of a crime, but a lawyer usually knows more about the law and how the court system works. The right to an attorney makes sure people can present a legal defense against criminal charges.