Sixth Amendment Rights
The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution states in part, “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.” The Sixth Amendment also grants the following rights:
- The defendant will know the charges against him
- He will be able to confront and ask questions of his accusers
- He can subpoena witnesses in his favor
- He has a right to defense counsel
Right to a “Speedy” Trial
The Sixth Amendment gives the defendant the right to a fast and speedy trial. This means that, after an arrest, the defendant must be brought to trial in a reasonable time frame. The state of Texas helps the government bring quicker criminal trials by prioritizing criminal trials over civil trials. This means that if a civil trial and a criminal trial are set to be heard on the same day, the court should move forward with the criminal trial.
Although a trial should be “speedy,” many reasons exist for a trial to be continued. Both the defense and the prosecution may have legitimate reasons to ask for a case to be delayed. Reasons for a delay may include witness issues or the defendant cooperating with law enforcement officials in another case.
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Jury’s Role in a Trial
The Sixth Amendment also provides that a defendant should be given a jury trial with an “impartial” jury. The jury should be a representative mix of the people who live in the district where the crime was committed.
Both the defense attorney and the district attorney have the ability to ask certain questions of potential jurors. This process is called voir dire. These questions should show whether or not the jurors have any potential biases for or against the defendant.
Once the jurors are seated, they will need to come to a unanimous decision in order to convict the defendant. If all persons on the jury cannot agree, the judge will declare a “hung” jury. The case would then have to be retried from the beginning.