As part of the National Constitution Center’s 27 Amendments (In 27 Days) project, each day we will look at a constitutional amendment. Through partnerships with leading scholars and universities, government agencies, media outlets, and more, the National Constitution Center will profile one amendment each day throughout the month of February.
Full Text of the Sixth Amendment
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.
Defendants in criminal cases are entitled to public trials that follow relatively soon after initiation of the charges. Witnesses must be brought to the trial to testify before the defendant, judge, and jury. Defendants are also entitled to compel witnesses on their behalf to appear and testify. Source: U.S. Senate
This amendment guarantees basic rights for defendants in all criminal prosecutions, including “the right to a speedy and public trial,” the right to be tried “by an impartial jury,” the right “to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation,” the right to be confronted with adversary witnesses, and the right “to have the Assistance of Counsel” in your defense.
1. The Library of Congress Constitution Annotated. Contains a detailed history of the amendment, along with past and recent court cases. Here is a link to the section on the Sixth Amendment. Here are explanations from the LOC that are in an online-friendly format from FindLaw:
- Criminal Prosecutions
- Right to a Speedy and Public Trial
- Speedy Trial
- Public Trial
- Right to Trial by Impartial Jury
- Jury Trial
- Impartial Jury
- Place of Trial–Jury of the Vicinage
- Notice of Accusation
- Compulsory Process
- Assistance of Counsel
- Development of an Absolute Right to Counsel at Trial
- Right to Assistance of Counsel in Nontrial Situations
2. Cornell Legal Information Institute. Includes information from Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School. Wex entries are collaboratively created and edited by legal experts.
3. U.S. Courts website. This resource has activities that focus on jury service by examining two Supreme Court cases dealing with jury selection.
Learn more about this project at the Constitution Center’s website at: constitutioncenter.org/experience/programs-initiatives/27-amendments-in-27-days/