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What rights does the Sixth Amendment give you?

You're facing serious charges for the first time, and you know that you have rights under both U.S. law and Arizona law. You want to make sure that you know exactly what those rights are.

They're listed in various legal documents, but one of the most important is the Sixth Amendment. It speaks to your rights when you go to trial, which must be honored whether you are guilty or innocent. These rights are for all people and they're a fundamental building block of the American justice system, making it as fair as it can be.

A few of the rights you have include:

  1. The right to a trail. You get to go before the court and plead your case, unless you decide to waive your right to do so.
  2. The right to a speedy trial. This doesn't mean it happens instantly -- the legal system is notoriously slow -- but you can't face any unnecessary delays. This is to prevent the authorities from putting you in jail and then holding you indefinitely, citing delays, to avoid giving you a trial at all.
  3. The right to have legal representation. Without this, people would be at a disadvantage as they were forced to represent themselves against experienced, professional lawyers. The Sixth Amendment ensures that everyone gets equal footing.
  4. The right to have your case seen by a jury of your peers that is impartial. Your jury can't all be made up of the family of the accuser, for example. It can be hard to find an impartial jury in the social media age, when people often form quick opinions based on the news, but it is the goal.
  5. The right to know exactly what charges and accusations you're facing and whom they come from.

Many of these rights are so ingrained in American culture that we take them for granted, but it's important to really understand them and all of your defense options before going to trail.

Source: Cornell Law School, "Sixth Amendment," accessed Oct. 06, 2017

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