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The Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause

Posted on in Your Rights

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.

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