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Archive for the ‘Sixth Amendment’ tag

The Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause

April 21st, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, your rights,While just about every child has to learn the bill of rights at some point during their education, as adults only a few of the amendments get a whole lot of media coverage. Most people know that the First Amendment covers things like free speech and freedom of religion, and that the Second Amendment deals with the right to bear arms. But beyond that, for many people, memories get a bit fuzzy. The thing is, when a person is charged with a crime, those other amendments in the Bill of Rights may make a real difference in the case. One important constitutional amendment for anyone facing a criminal charge to understand is the Sixth Amendment, specifically its confrontation clause.

What Does the Sixth Amendment Say?

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution touches on a few key rights for criminal defendants. The amendment itself says:

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.

There are many important rights combined into this one small amendment. They include your right to a speedy and public jury trial, your rights to only be charged with crimes that already exist and to know what crime you are charged with, your right to confront the witnesses against you, your right to use tools like subpoenas to force witnesses to testify for you, and your right to have an attorney.

What is the Confrontation Clause?

The confrontation clause is the part of the Sixth Amendment that says you have a right to confront the witnesses against you. But what does that mean? The main United States Supreme Court decision that deals with the confrontation clause is Crawford v. Washington. In this extremely important case the Court decided that the confrontation clause requires that, in order for a prosecutor to be allowed to admit prior testimonial statements against you in court, you must have had the chance to cross-examine them. Additionally, your right to cross-examine this witness is typically a right to cross-examine them face to face, although courts have allowed certain exceptions when it comes to very young children who are witnesses.

So what is an example of where the confrontation clause might come into play? Imagine a battery case where the alleged victim originally claimed that the accused hit them, but the alleged victim had decided not to pursue the matter and does not show up for trial. Assuming the trial goes ahead without the alleged victim, the prosecutor cannot introduce the victim’s prior statements claiming that the accused hit them unless the defendant has had a previous opportunity to cross-examine the victim.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

If you or someone you love is ever charged with a crime you will want the help of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Christopher Cosley has spent his career helping people. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today at 847-394-3200.

U.S. Supreme Court Review of Case Regarding Hearsay and Sixth Amendment

November 12th, 2014 at 11:27 am

Constitutional rights, appellate court, Illinois criminal defense attorney, The United States Supreme Court has decided to review a criminal case that contains issues of hearsay and related Sixth Amendment considerations. In the case, the defendant was charged and convicted of physically abusing two minor children. The trial court allowed testimony from one of the child’s teachers who repeated the victim’s out of court statement to them, even though the older child was deemed incompetent to testify. The statements related to the identification of the defendant. The case was appealed to the appropriate state appellate court, which reversed the conviction, and then to the State Supreme Court, which affirmed the appellate court’s decision.

Defendant’s Argument

Defendant’s argument on appeal was that the introduction of the above mentioned witness’s testimony violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser. At trial, the jury was exposed to testimony and the defendant was not given the chance to properly cross examine the individual who actually made the statements. Now that the case has reached the Supreme Court, they are expected to address issues about the statements that include whether the teachers were effectively acting as law enforcement officers conducting an interrogation since they are mandatory reporters of child abuse, and whether the child’s statements to the teachers can be considered testimonial.

Considerations

The issues of hearsay and Sixth Amendment concerns have been addressed by the Court in the past. This case provides an opportunity for the Court to apply previously decided legal standards to a new set of facts. Much of the Court’s decision seems to rest on whether the child’s original statements to the teachers can be considered testimonial. If so, they likely should have been excluded from the trial as the defendant did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the declarant, the child. The Supreme Court will likely use legal precedent to decide whether the statements were testimonial in nature or not.

The mandatory reporting law presents another interesting issue to be decided in this case. If it were not for this law, teachers would likely have a valid reason for inquiring about injuries observed on a student. However, since teachers are required to report suspected child abuse to appropriate authorities, the teacher questioning the student was legally considered to be an interrogation for the purpose of gathering evidence of a crime, as was found by the State Supreme Court on appeal. The reason the interaction is considered to be such is that in this role, the teacher is acting as an agent of law enforcement and gathering information for them.

On the other hand, the argument can be furthered that despite the mandatory reporting requirement, her primary purpose in asking about a student’s injuries could be unrelated to aiding law enforcement. The reporting requirement simply affirms the teacher’s ordinary obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of students. It will be interesting to see which line of reasoning the Supreme Court identifies with.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, do not hesitate to seek the representation of an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney who can advise you on the facts of your case and protect your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today to schedule a consultation. We have successful experience serving clients in Cook County as well as the surrounding area.

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