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The most important part of the 6th Amendment

Nearly 225 years after it was ratified, the Bill of Rights continues to be the bedrock of many of our individual rights as U.S. citizens. From a criminal justice perspective, the most important amendments in the Bill of Rights are the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth.

We will discuss the rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fifth amendments in future blog posts. Today, we will briefly explain the Sixth Amendment, and how it recognizes how vital a defense attorney is to making the criminal justice system relatively fair.

Though it is just a few lines long, the Sixth Amendment contains several rights granted to criminal defendants in this country, such as the right to a speedy trial; the right to an impartial jury; the right to confront the witnesses against them; and the right to compel witnesses to testify on their behalf.

But perhaps the most important part of the Sixth Amendment is the portion granting the “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” The right to have an attorney represent you if you are charged with a crime goes back to the very beginnings of the country, though it was not guaranteed regardless of ability to pay until much later.

The reason the right to an attorney is so important is because of the imbalance of power between the prosecution and the accused. Few defendants are knowledgeable about the law or criminal procedure, and would stand virtually no chance representing themselves in court. All of the rights we mentioned above cannot be enforced without a knowledgeable and vigorous defense attorney to defend them.

If you are ever arrested or charged with a crime, your first move should be to find an attorney to represent you. Your lawyer will protect you from police misconduct, evaluate your case and advise you on your next steps.

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