The US Constitution provides several Constitutional checks on law enforcement. The Sixth Amendment provides:
“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 defense.”
There are several key parts to this Amendment that protect the accused.
The right to a speedy and public trial
Normally, states set a time limit such as 180 days by which every case must be tried. If the case is not tried within that time frame, then the charges should be dismissed. The trial judge will examine various factors before dismissing a case for this reason such as the reasons for the delay, whether the defendant was in jail or out of jail during the delay, when the defendant suffered any other prejudice, and other factors. Trials are heard in the jurisdiction where the crime was alleged to have been committed.
Public trials are a protection against abuse by law enforcement.
The right to be tried by an impartial jury
Defendants have a right to be tried by a jury of their peers. Juries shouldn’t have any preconceptions about your innocence or guilt. They also shouldn’t have any biases.
The right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation
The purpose of this provision is that the accused should know what the charges are against him/her so he/she can prepare a proper defense. Often the charges are presented at an arraignment – after the arrest but before the trial.
The right to confront witnesses against you
This Sixth Amendment protection means that the prosecution can’t convict you on written evidence. You have the right to challenge the testimony of any witnesses who offer evidence against you. The challenge is usually done through cross-examination of the witness. Experienced criminal defense lawyers understand the art of cross-examination. Confronting a witness often involves attacking his/her story and his/her credibility.
This right also applies to the concept of hearsay. Generally, witnesses can’t testify about what someone told them they saw. They have to testify to what they personally observed or know.
The right to compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in your favor
This provision means that you have the right to present witnesses on your behalf who can support your version of events or rebut the version presented by the witnesses for the prosecution. There are procedural rules though. The prosecution normally does have the right to know who your witnesses are before the trial starts.
The right to the assistance of an attorney
Defendants have the right to choose a lawyer of their own choice. If they can’t afford a lawyer, they are usually assigned a public defender. The prosecution has many advantages in any case. They understand the complexities of the law. They have the ability to compel witnesses to testify. They work with the police and law enforcement.
It’s only just and fair that defendants be permitted to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can level the playing field and assert the rights of the accused.
At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we have the experience and persuasive skills to fight the prosecution. We’ll level the playing the field for you by holding the government to its duty to ensure trials and litigation are fair. We assert all Constitutional rights on your behalf, all statutory rights, and all the facts that support your case. To speak with a premier Annapolis or Ellicott city defense lawyer call us at 410.777.8103, or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.