The 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution Explained

6th Amendment of the Constitution
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.

What four rights are citizens granted in the 6th Amendment?

The 6th Amendment concerns the rights of anyone accused of a criminal offense. It states that any accused person has the right to a lawyer to act on their behalf, has the right to an early trial, the right that the trial should be held in public with a jury and witnesses.

Rights To An Impartial Jury

It also states that the jury should be impartial and that the accused has to be told the nature of the charges against them and the identity of those making those charges.

Rights To Witnesses

The accused must also be able to bring witnesses who will speak in his favor to the court.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

There is an assumption under the Constitution of the United States that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. However, the 6th Amendment of the US Constitution protects the rights of an accused person and states that they must be able to defend themselves properly.

Rights to Due Process of the Law

No one can be arbitrarily found guilty of a crime and then punished. Instead, they must be allowed the due process of the law and the chance to prove themselves innocent.

Rights of the accused to legal counsel

The architects of the 6th Amendment felt that the right to legal counsel was the most important of the rights given to an accused person. They even stated that if the accused cannot afford counsel, the State would provide one. Once the accused has counsel to act on his behalf, the other rights become much easier to achieve.

The right to a trial soon after arrest supports the notion that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The more quickly that this can be done is better for the accused, is better for the accusers, and is better for the reputation of the legal process.

Chain of Evidence

A speedy trial will ensure evidence will be less vulnerable to loss or damage, witnesses will have events fresh in their minds, and so will the accused. The result is a fairer trial.

Public trials are generally considered to be an important part of the judicial process. They make it less likely that either the judges or the prosecutors can be corrupted or bribed. In addition, witnesses may be less inclined to commit perjury if the public can scrutinize their lies. On the other hand, trials held behind closed doors can lead to suspicions regarding their fairness.

Where a jury tries an accused person, that jury must be impartial. Juries in the United States comprise 12 citizens, picked at random. The decision of the jury must be unanimous in federal trials. However, jury trials held under states auspices do not have to be unanimous.

Defendants in a trial have the right under the 6th Amendment to cross-examine witnesses brought by the prosecution. They also have the right to bring witnesses to speak in their defense.

Principles of 6th Amendment

The principle that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty is a basic human right and is enshrined in the 6th Amendment. This right is the backbone of a civilized society, and the founding fathers were acutely aware of the responsibility they had to ensure its inclusion in the Bill of Rights.

Watch the following video that summarizes the 6th Amendment:


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