Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Sixth Amendment (Amendment VI) to the United States Constitution sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions. It was ratified in 1791 as part of the United States Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court has applied most of the protections of this amendment to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Sixth Amendment grants criminal defendants the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury consisting of jurors from the state and district in which the crime was alleged to have been committed. Under the impartial jury requirement, jurors must be unbiased, and the jury must consist of a representative cross-section of the community. The right to a jury applies only to offenses in which the penalty is imprisonment for longer than six months. In Barker v. Wingo, the Supreme Court articulated a balancing test to determine whether a defendant's right to a speedy trial had been violated, and held that any delay of longer than a year would be "presumptively" (but not absolutely) prejudicial. The Supreme Court has held that the requirement of a public trial is not absolute, and that both the government and the defendant can in some cases request a closed trial.

The Sixth Amendment requires that criminal defendants be given notice of the nature and cause of accusations against them. The amendment's Confrontation Clause gives criminal defendants the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, while the Compulsory Process Clause gives criminal defendants the right to call their own witnesses and, in some cases, compel witnesses to testify. The Assistance of Counsel Clause grants criminal defendants the right to be assisted by counsel. In Gideon v. Wainwright and subsequent cases, the Supreme Court held that a public defender must be provided to criminal defendants unable to afford an attorney in all trials where the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment.