Under the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution, the Sixth Amendment guarantees citizens specific rights should they become criminal defendants. Some of the rights provided in the amendment are well known, such as the right to a speedy and public trial as well as the ability to confront witnesses. However, not everyone knows what rights the Sixth Amendment guarantees.
Right to a Speedy and Public Trial
The right to a speedy trial means that, after an arrest, a defendant must be brought to trial within a reasonable time. In Florida, Rule 3.191 states that every person charged with a misdemeanor must be brought to trial within 90 days and within 175 days if charged with a felony. Time may be extended by the court for the following reasons:
- Exceptional circumstances demonstrated by either the prosecution or defense
- Good cause demonstrated by the accused
- Determination of mental competency or physical ability to stand trial
- Administrative order from the Chief Justice
- Unexpected illness, incapacity of witnesses
- Demonstration that the case is extremely complex
- Evidence that is not available in time but will be at a later date
- Developments that could not have been anticipated
- A delay necessary to accommodate a co-defendant
- Intentional delay by accused that led to an exceeded deadline
If none of these exceptions exist, a judge may dismiss the case against the defendant if the trial does not occur within the time specified by the law.
Right to Impartial Jury Trial
The right to an impartial jury trial is granted whether the case is civil or criminal. However, many civil cases will not have a jury. Jury selection for both types of cases is the same even though the burden of proof in the two types of trials is different. A juror who is biased regarding the defendant’s case or the injured person may not serve on the jury. Additionally, a juror cannot be a full-time law enforcement officer or related to the plaintiff or defendant.
Right to Confront Witnesses
In Florida, and in all other states, an accused person has the right to question and cross-examine witnesses. In some cases, the prosecution attempts to use statements made outside of court as testimony. However, judges often deny this request as this is a violation of the accused’s Sixth Amendment rights unless the witness is unavailable and the defense has had an opportunity to cross-examine the witness.
Assistance of Counsel
One of the most important rights given to citizens who enter the criminal justice system is the right to counsel. Anyone accused of a crime has a right to consult with an attorney and, if they cannot afford an attorney, one must be appointed by the court system.
Contact the Khonsari Law Group for Sixth Amendment Questions
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it is important to understand the rights provided to you under the Sixth Amendment. Since 2011, we have been dedicated to providing advocacy for those who need representation and protecting their rights under the law. Contact us by phone or online today to learn how we can help you.