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 defence.
The old adage in law that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client would not exist if not
for the Sixth Amendment. As part of the Bill of Rights, the Sixth Amendment helps to protect the basic
rights of all U.S. citizens by limiting the power of the U.S. government. By giving power back to the
people, the Founding Fathers hoped to create a nation whose government could never impinge on its
citizens basic rights.
The Sixth Amendment details the individual rights of the accused in a criminal procedure. The
accused has a right to a speedy trial, the right to have his case heard before an impartial jury of his
peers, the right to have his case publicly tried in the state the alleged crime was committed, the right to
know the crimes in which he is accused, the right to face his accuser, the right to call forth witnesses
in his defense and the right to an attorney.
Scholars believe that much of the inspiration for the Bill of Rights came from the English charter,
the Magna Carta, according to Cornell University School of Law. Issued in 1215, the Magna Carta
limited the power of the king by giving the English people certain rights. The Magna Carta's provision
providing for a speedy trail helped to influence the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, and from
there the Sixth Amendment. A speedy trial prevents a lengthy incarceration that could impair the
accused's defense if witnesses were to die or details were forgotten while awaiting trial.
Right to Council
English common law denied the right to council for anyone accused of a felony but granted that
right to those charged with a misdemeanor offense, according to the Cornell School of Law. Early
colonial law varied by state, with some sticking to the English standard and others appointing council
when council could not be obtained. The language used in Sixth Amendment indicates an
understanding by Congress of a need for representation of those who could afford it, but it wasn't
until the 1930s that the Supreme Court expanded to law to provide council if it could not be afforded.
Courtesy of http://www.ehow.com/info_8606189_6th-amendment-constitution.html