If You Got Acquitted At Trial, Thank The Sixth Amendment
Remember that scene in various film adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass where, one minute, Alice is casually exploring the strange world in which she finds herself, and the next minute she is on trial? Before she can even find out what crime she is being accused of, the Queen of Hearts shrieks, “Off with her head!” A similar scenario plays out in various works by Kafka, although the effects are frightening instead of amusing. This nightmarishly unfair criminal process is not merely a figment of the imagination of writers like Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka. This is how criminal courts function when given the opportunity. Therefore, the United States Constitution and its amendments outline the rights of defendants in criminal cases, including the protections and opportunities that the state must provide to them during a criminal trial and the preparations for it. The Sixth Amendment focuses entirely on the rights of defendants who fight their criminal charges at trial. A West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer can help you make informed decisions about presenting defenses at trial.
The Rights Granted to Defendants by the Sixth Amendment
The clauses of the Sixth Amendment outline nine different rights, which can be categorized as relating to trials, juries, and witnesses. These are your Sixth Amendment rights:
- Rights related to trials – The court must notify you of the charges against you before you enter a plea and before preparations begin for a trial. The trial must begin without unnecessary delays; 70 days after entering a plea is the standard length of time, but various factors can lead to justifiable delays. The trial must be public unless the court determines that making the trial public would be unfair to the defendant. Pursuant to the right of vicinage, the trial must take place in the same county or judicial district where the alleged crime occurred.
- Rights related to juries – The jury must be impartial, meaning that they must not have prior knowledge of the alleged crime or of people involved in the case. They must be demographically similar to the judicial district where the trial is taking place. Prosecutors and defense lawyers have the right to exclude potential jurors that they think hold unfair biases about the case.
- Rights related to witnesses – As a defendant, you have the right to summon witnesses to testify in your defense, including but not limited to expert witnesses. You also have the right to cross-examine witnesses summoned by the prosecution. In most cases, witnesses may not present hearsay evidence to the jury.
When you exercise these rights, you are on firm footing when it comes to establishing reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s case against you.
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.