The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States

Amendment 5

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. 


An original copy of the U.S. Constitution

Comment: The Fifth Amendment provides five important protections against arbitrary government actions. First, no one may be prosecuted for a federal crime without first being indicted (formally accused) by a grand jury. Second, a criminal suspect may be prosecuted only once for each crime. If a jury acquits the accused person, there can be no retrial. Third, a person cannot be forced to testify against himself or herself in any criminal case. This is the right against self-incrimination. Fourth, the due process Clause bars the government from arbitrarily depriving anyone of life, liberty, or property. Fifth, the government may not take anyone’s private property unless it is necessary for a public purpose and unless the government pays a fair price for it.


Amendment 6

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.


Comment: The Sixth Amendment guarantees people accused of crimes the right to a speedy and public trial. Defendants in federal cases are entitled to be tried in the area in which the crime was committed, and both state and federal defendants have the right to have an impartial jury decide their guilt or innocence. The Sixth Amendment prohibits the government from prosecuting an accused person without first informing him or her of the nature of the charges against him or her. The accused has the right to “confront”—that is, to cross-examine witnesses who testify against him or her at trial. Those accused also have a right to subpoena (compel) supporting witnesses to testify in court and to have a lawyer assist in their legal defense


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Miranda: The Story of America's Right to Remain Silent
Copyright © 2004, Gary L. Stuart. All rights reserved.
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page last revised: 10/25/04