(DailyVantage.com) – The United States Bill of Rights contains almost all of the parameters for both the US criminal justice system and civil courts. Our Founding Fathers created it to ensure the American people were well-insulated from the potential for abuse at the hands of a tyrannical government. While all of the amendments within matter, two play a particularly important role in court and criminal proceedings.
The entire point of the Sixth Amendment is to protect the rights of criminal defendants in the US. The goal of creating it was to ensure anyone charged with a crime is able to defend themselves and receive a fair trial.
It states that:
- Everyone has the right to an impartial jury.
- Criminal defendants must be able to face their accusers.
- Anyone facing criminal charges has the right to know what law they allegedly broke and what evidence supports those charges.
- The right to a speedy trial is guaranteed.
- People charged with a crime have the right to an attorney.
- The court must also allow defendants the opportunity to present witnesses in their defense.
In America, people generally don’t have to worry about being thrown in prison on trumped-up charges. That’s not to say the courts don’t get it wrong sometimes — they do. Still, the Sixth Amendment is a powerful tool in preventing our country from becoming like China, where innocent people are stripped of their rights all the time — without any recourse.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees people the right to a jury trial; however, it only applies to cases processed through the federal civil court. This important entry prevents the courts from overturning facts established by a jury — an important step in limiting overreach.
Originally, the Seventh Amendment also guaranteed the right to a trial by jury in civil cases that involved an “amount-in-controversy” of $20 or more. This threshold remains in place even today, despite the fact that it has significantly devalued since 1789.
Laws instituted separately from the Bill of Rights adjust the goalpost in modern times. For example, the federal civil court may only hear cases involving disputes $75,000 or more. This effectively renders the $20 threshold moot, making a jury mandatory in every case.
Like the Sixth Amendment, the Founding Fathers added the Seventh Amendment to the Bill of Rights to prevent the government from having too much power. They believed the right to a trial by jury would stop a judge from handing down biased, unfair rulings.
Without these two additions to the Constitution, the court system would be unfairly tilted against defendants and people trying to settle civil cases. Without fair civil and criminal justice systems, democracy itself would rapidly crumble.
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