How The Sixth Amendment Protects Defendants In Criminal Cases
If you have had any interactions with the criminal justice system, you are probably painfully aware of the ways in which it does not live up to its ideals of justice. A conviction for a nonviolent crime and a sentence that does not involve prison time can still be a lifelong financial burden. Many defendants plead guilty even when they are innocent, simply because they reasonably believe that they do not have the time and money to fight their charges. Justice does not mean getting away without any consequences after breaking the law, but it does mean having a fair chance to tell your version of events. It also means not receiving excessive punishments. Likewise, how wealthy or popular you are should not influence the outcome of your case. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution outlines several rights afforded to defendants in criminal cases, so that every defendant who chooses to go to trial can have a fair trial. A West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer can help you exercise your rights in a criminal case.
The Five Basic Rights of the Sixth Amendment
The Sixth Amendment requires the courts to respect the following rights of defendants in criminal cases:
- A speedy and public trial – The court must allow members of the public, sometimes including journalists, to attend the trial, unless the defendant waives the right to a public trial and requests the trial to be held in private. The court must not delay the trial unnecessarily.
- An unbiased jury – Both the prosecutors and your lawyer have a role in selecting jurors. They should choose jurors who do not know people connected to the case and do not have prior knowledge of events related to the case. Your lawyer can exclude a juror because answers that the juror gives to jury selection questions indicate bias, but you cannot exclude a juror purely because of the juror’s race or sex.
- Notice of charges – Early in your case, the court must hold a hearing in which the judge reads you the accusations that the state is making against you. This way, you can prepare your defenses accordingly.
- Witnesses – Defendants in criminal cases have the right to summon witnesses, including but not limited to expert witnesses and eyewitnesses to the alleged crime. Defendants also have the right to cross-examine witnesses brought by the prosecution.
- Representation by a lawyer – You may hire the criminal defense lawyer of your choice at your own expense. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint a public defender to your case. You may also choose to represent yourself, but you must get the judge’s permission to do this.
Your criminal defense lawyer can help you understand these and other legal rights in detail during your case.
Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Attorney William Wallshein has more than 39 years of experience, including five years as a prosecutor in Palm Beach County. Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida to discuss your case.