The First Freedoms
The Privacy Amendments
The 5th Amendment
The 6th Amendment
Civil Trials
The Interpretive Rules

Speedy and Public Trial, Impartial Jury, and Being Informed of the Accusation

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. . . .

Imagine for a moment that you are accused of a terrible crime. You will find that there is no time when the power of the state weighs down more heavily upon you than when you are arrested by someone carrying a badge and gun, hauled into court, and put on trial for your liberty or even your life. All of the machinery of government seems to be arrayed against you: police, prosecutors, even the justice system itself. Only in such a moment, one of the worst any of us can face, do you fully realize the importance of the rights set out in the first half of the 6th Amendment. 

The first half of the 6th Amendment continues the enumeration of rights begun in the 5th Amendment—an enumeration of rights claimed by the suspect when he has been accused of a crime. These are rights which no one would wish to claim—for they only become operative once a person has been accused of a crime—but they are of inestimable value in those circumstances.