Constitution for Idiots 7
So let’s say you have been arrested for pulling a Bernie Madoff and you are sitting there in the Pokey. If you are not a fan of being locked up indefinitely without a trial Amendment 6 is the amendment for you!
“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.”
A speedy trial is very important for many reasons but let’s talk about the first section. “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…” This speedy trial allows every citizen of the United States of America to NOT be held indefinitely while allowing the accuser to have unlimited time to be able to build (read manufacture) a case. With the presumption of innocence our legal system is founded around allowing each accused to be quickly tried should not be taken for granted. Let’s say your home was being broken into and you shot and killed the intruder. Let’s also say that everything you did was correct and legal and you were defending your property or person. The police will most likely handcuff you and take you to the local station. Now put in place a District Attorney that had a problem with gun ownership. Without a speedy trial you could be held indefinitely while the DA “built the case”. This would have the effect of incarcerating you without due process of law.
It is likewise important to make sure you are tried in the location that you are accused to ensure you have the most sympathetic jury. Using the same scenario if you were accused in Texas where there is a safe castle law (a law allowing you to defend your property) and you were tried in a state that had a mandatory flee clause, meaning you must flee if you can, then the jury would be constrained by the laws of that state. This also would mean that every state eventually would have to have the exact same laws in order to be fair thus destroying the sovereignty of the states.
“…to be confronted with the witnesses against him…” How fair would it be to be accused of a crime only to find out that you cannot find out who the accuser is? If you have ever been accused of something and the authority discussing the infraction would not tell you who the accuser was, you would understand why this is so important. By preventing your access to knowledge of who the accuser is, the prosecuting authority has an advantage. It could be, for example, that you could easily discredit the witness
“…to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor…” The key word in this section is COMPULSORY. Let’s change up the story a bit. That same person that broke into your house told his brother he was going to commit the crime. If you were unable to force that brother, by law, to testify do you think that they would? Making sure you are able to help your case with testimonies of individuals that would not willingly help your case, seems prudent to me.
“…and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” Abraham Lincoln said it best, “A man who represents himself truly has a fool for a client”. That being said if you did not have the right to an attorney to help in your defense, you would be a fool by default. In all seriousness, the law is complicated and the right to an attorney to help you through the pitfalls is a necessity. If you needed surgery you wouldn’t do the surgery yourself or hire a non-surgeon to do the work would you? You do notice that this amendment does not say that you are required to have an attorney but that you have the right to the assistance of one. Again the right to choose your course seems to be the underlying reason for the amendment.
Many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights deal with the individual having the right to govern themselves and to choose a path that fits them. Likewise they also allow a free person liberty from false accusations and incarceration. Be glad that the framers really thought this through. This country would be a totally different place without this amendment.