Did You Know?
The Sixth Amendment was put into the Bill of Rights by James Madison in the year 1789. It is also known as the Compulsory Process Clause or the Speedy Trial Clause.
The founding fathers and the early colonists were far too familiar with the laws and treatment imposed upon them by the British. They often faced unfair laws and practices where punishment led directly to imprisonment.
To maintain control over the colonies, the British enforced unfair imprisonment even for trivial incidences such as a difference of opinion with the beliefs of the King, or disagreement against a law. This further fueled the idea of drafting the Bill of Rights which would safeguard the citizens against such unjust ways.
Once such amendment is the Sixth Amendment which describes the judiciary system and the way it is supposed to function. It protects the rights of the accused and gives him/her a fair chance to prove his/her innocence.
In all 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.
Summary of the Sixth Amendment
In simple words, the Sixth Amendment was made to ensure that the people who are accused of a crime have a fair chance at proving their innocence. Along with that, it prevents the governing body from abusing their power and to keep the justice system fair.
Sixth Amendment Explained
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial...
This part of the amendment secures the 'right to a speedy trial' ensuring that the government does not unnecessarily detain a citizen for a long duration before his/her trial. Speedy trials also shortens the time in which public accusations can be built up against the accused. Delays can damage the reputation, name, and family, and also cause financial losses. Delays can also lead to the loss or tampering of evidence, and for the witnesses to forget details crucial to the case, or even die.
... and public trial by an impartial jury...
A public trial ensures that the case proceedings are witnessed in an open court. This would allow the media to witness or follow the case. This not just puts the case on record and out in the masses, but also prevents the government or the governing body from following unfair and corrupt practices. An impartial jury remains unbiased and unprejudiced towards the case and the accused ensuring justice. This clause allows the defense to question the jury to assure themselves of impartiality.
...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...
This clause states that the accused can stand trial in or near the location of the said crime that he is being accused for. However, it also states that the district has to comply with that particular law for the case to proceed in that court. The accused should be informed of the charges against him. He should also be told what charge he has been convicted for.
...to be confronted with the witnesses against him to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor...
The accused has the right to know the names of people who are claiming the charges. He also has the right to question and/or counter question them. The accused can have his own set of witnesses who are willing to testify on his behalf.
...to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
The accused has the right to an attorney to defend his case, that too from the time he has been taken into custody. This provision has also been made in the Fifth Amendment. Along with that, he is also read the Miranda Rights, which say, "...You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you." The accused may want to represent himself in his trial. However, the court can prevent him from doing so, if he is found mentally unstable.
In other words, the sixth Amendment equips the accused with an attorney, speedy trial, and a fair chance at proving his innocence.