The Confrontation Clause and Your Defense Case
One of the most unique amendments in the United States constitution is the sixth amendment. Under this statute, a defendant in a criminal trial has the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against” him or her. While this may seem standard in a criminal case, there are instances where the sixth amendment could be vital to reducing your charges or having your case dismissed, but only if you thoroughly understand how it works.
What Is the Confrontation Clause?
The sixth amendment is often referred to as the “confrontation clause” because it allows accused individuals to confront the individual who is accusing them of a crime. Most people assume this just means that the victim of the crime must appear in court, but it actually goes far beyond that.
Under the confrontation clause, a defendant has the right to cross-examine a witness’s testimony. Cross-examination is crucial for the defense, as an experienced and skilled attorney can pick apart a witness’s statements, expose lies or bias, create doubt in the minds of the jury or judge, and effectively build support for your case’s dismissal. In addition, the confrontation clause can also expose hearsay evidence wherein a witness only repeated statements or testimonies by another individual who did not testify in the trial, such as in the case of Vigil v. State.
But there are scenarios where the confrontation clause does not apply, and it is important to understand when this legal strategy can be employed.
Exceptions to the Rule
The United States Supreme Court has outlined specific scenarios where the sixth amendment can be modified in a criminal trial. For example, in sexual assault cases involving minors, the witness or alleged victim is allowed to be in a separate room when providing their testimony. The accused may watch the testimony via a closed-circuit video feed and their defense attorney can still cross-examine the witness, thus allowing for a modified definition of “confront.”
In addition, if witnesses live out of state or in another country, the court may also use telecommunicating methods to provide their testimony. Thus, cross-examination is still possible when the witness is not in the courtroom.
However, the confrontation clause can also be outright ignored in two unique scenarios:
Final words: In Wyoming courts, witnesses who made a statement before they died, such as a video recording or written testimony, are considered to be completely truthful. Thus, even though the witness is dead, and you cannot confront them, their testimony can still be submitted in a courtroom. However, their testimony is not full-proof and your attorney can also have it examined and analyzed in the court to determine the facts of the statement.
Witness tampering: In some cases, witnesses cannot provide their testimony because they have been kidnapped by associates of the accused, such as by a criminal organization or gang. In such situations, the accused would have technically waived their right to confront the witness if it is shown that they were involved in the kidnapping.
While these may seem like unique situations, it is important to know when you can utilize your sixth amendment rights and when they can be the deciding factor in your case.
How an Attorney Can Help You
Properly utilizing the sixth amendment comes down to skill, experience, and an extensive understanding of both federal and state laws. When applied correctly, the confrontation clause can protect a defendant from false accusations, but only if the defense attorney knows how to properly cross-examine a witness and get to the truth in a case. To ensure you receive the best defense possible, you will want to employ the services of a thorough attorney who can:
- Effectively cross-examine a witness and expose any lies
- Review all possible defense strategies
- Conduct themselves professionally in a trial
- Explain all of your rights under the law
- Vigorously advocate on your behalf before a judge or jury
At Steven Titus & Associates, P.C., our legal team has extensive experience protecting Campbell County residents from wrongful accusations and extensive jail time and has even used the confrontation clause to protect a client from a felony conviction. When you choose to work with our team, you will get the aid of a skilled and knowledgeable Gillette criminal defense attorney who can pursue a variety of legal defenses to protect your rights. Call us at (307) 257-7800 to learn how we can defend you in court.
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