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In American society today, you mainly hear about Amendments one, two, and five (the Freedom of the People, the Right to Bear Arms, and the Right to not Incriminate Oneself, respectively). This leaves the other Amendments far from people's minds. What about the 13th Amendment, keeping people from having slaves? What about the Repeal of Prohibition, giving people the right to drink freely? But one of the most ignored Amendments is the sixth, giving rights to people accused of crimes. Well, this poor Amendment is not forgotten completely.
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 have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.
'The right to a speedy and public trial...'
'The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial' was put in to ensure that the person accused of a crime will not be made to wait in jail for an abnormal period of time before their trial.
'... by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed...'
What this means is the accused person's fate will be decided by a jury that is not prejudiced one way or another, and that the jury should be from the same area as the accused person.
'... to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation...'
This means that any person arrested should be told what crime they are accused of and why they have been accused.
'... to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour...'
This is a complicated way of saying that if the accused person knows of someone who can help prove him innocent, he has the ability to force that person to testify.
'... and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.'
This means that the person accused of a crime has the right to have a lawyer present with him at all times before and during the trial.
The Miranda Rights
Nowhere has the last part become more evident than in the case of Ernesto Miranda vs the State of Arizona. In this case, the accused, Miranda, did not know he could have a lawyer with him, and was forced into giving a confession. Miranda, convicted of kidnapping, was pardoned by the Supreme Court because he was unaware of his rights.
The direct result of this case are the 'Miranda Rights', which must be read to a person upon their arrest. If they are not read, then the arrest is invalid and the person may go free.