Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Crushed Law

When prosecuted for a crime, you have a right to know the charges against you; to have a speedy, public, impartial, and local jury trial; to have a defense attorney; to have the court compel witnesses to testify in your favor; and to confront those who testify against you.

Actual Law

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.

Selected Case Law 

From Michigan v. Bryant:

” . . . The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” The Fourteenth Amendment renders the Clause binding on the States. Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 403, 85 S.Ct. 1065, 13 L.Ed.2d 923 (1965). In Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 66, 100 S.Ct. 2531, 65 L.Ed.2d 597 (1980), we explained that the confrontation right does not bar admission of statements of an unavailable witness if the statements “bea[r] adequate `indicia of reliability.'” We held that reliability can be established if “the evidence falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception,” or if it does not fall within such an exception, then if it bears “particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.” Ibid.

Nearly a quarter century later, we decided Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177. Petitioner Michael Crawford was prosecuted for stabbing a man who had allegedly attempted to rape his wife, Sylvia. Sylvia witnessed the stabbing, and later that night, after she and her husband were both arrested, police interrogated her about the incident. At trial, Sylvia Crawford claimed spousal privilege and did not testify, but the State introduced a tape recording of Sylvia’s statement to the police in an effort to prove that the stabbing was not in self-defense, as Michael Crawford claimed. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed Crawford’s conviction because it found Sylvia’s statement to be reliable, as required under Ohio v. Roberts. We reversed, overruling Ohio v. Roberts. 541 U.S., at 60-68, 124 S.Ct. 1354; see also Davis, 547 U.S., at 825, n. 4, 126 S.Ct. 2266.

Crawford examined the common-law history of the confrontation right and explained that “the principal evil at which the Confrontation Clause was directed was the civil-law mode of criminal procedure, and particularly its use of ex parteexaminations as evidence against the accused.” 541 U.S., at 50, 124 S.Ct. 1354. We noted that in England, pretrial examinations of suspects and witnesses by government officials “were sometimes read in court in lieu of live testimony.” Id., at 43, 124 S.Ct. 1354. In light of this history, we emphasized the word “witnesses” in the 1153*1153 Sixth Amendment, defining it as “those who `bear testimony.'” Id., at 51, 124 S.Ct. 1354 (quoting 2 N. Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828)). We defined “testimony” as “`[a] solemn declaration or affirmation made for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact.'” 541 U.S., at 51, 124 S.Ct. 1354 (quoting Webster). We noted that “[a]n accuser who makes a formal statement to government officers bears testimony in a sense that a person who makes a casual remark to an acquaintance does not.” Ibid. We therefore limited the Confrontation Clause’s reach to testimonial statements and held that in order for testimonial evidence to be admissible, the Sixth Amendment “demands what the common law required: unavailability and a prior opportunity for cross-examination.” Id., at 68, 124 S.Ct. 1354. Although “leav[ing] for another day any effort to spell out a comprehensive definition of `testimonial,'” Crawford noted that “at a minimum” it includes “prior testimony at a preliminary hearing, before a grand jury, or at a former trial; and . . . police interrogations.” Ibid. Under this reasoning, we held that Sylvia Crawford’s statements in the course of police questioning were testimonial and that their admission when Michael Crawford “had no opportunity to cross-examine her” due to spousal privilege was “sufficient to make out a violation of the Sixth Amendment.” Ibid.

In 2006, the Court in Davis v. Washington and Hammon v. Indiana, 547 U.S. 813, 126 S.Ct. 2266, 165 L.Ed.2d 224, took a further step to “determine more precisely which police interrogations produce testimony” and therefore implicate a Confrontation Clause bar. Id., at 822, 126 S.Ct. 2266. We explained that when Crawford said that
“`interrogations by law enforcement officers fall squarely within [the] class’ of testimonial hearsay, we had immediately in mind (for that was the case before us) interrogations solely directed at establishing the facts of a past crime, in order to identify (or provide evidence to convict) the perpetrator. The product of such interrogation, whether reduced to a writing signed by the declarant or embedded in the memory (and perhaps notes) of the interrogating officer, is testimonial.” Davis, 547 U.S., at 826, 126 S.Ct. 2266.

We thus made clear in Davis that not all those questioned by the police are witnesses and not all “interrogations by law enforcement officers,” Crawford, 541 U.S., at 53, 124 S.Ct. 1354, are subject to the Confrontation Clause. . . .”