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Sixth Amendment rights in criminal cases

Californians who are charged with crimes have the right to have speedy trials. This right is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but it may be applied differently depending on the circumstances of a case as well as the reasons for any delays.

A speedy trial refers to the time period from the date of a person's arrest and when he or she must be brought to trial on the charges. When there is an unreasonable delay between the time of a person's arrest and his or her trial, the court will likely dismiss the case.

Defendants also have the right to have their cases tried before impartial juries. Juries are selected by the prosecutors, courts and defense attorneys from randomly selected jury pools before the trial starts. Once the jurors are chosen, the prosecutor then has the burden of proving the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For felony cases, there must be 12 jurors to hear the case, and there may also be alternate jurors who may take the place of jurors who are unable to finish hearing the trial or to complete the deliberations. The jury's verdict must be unanimous, and if it is not, then the case will be returned with a hung jury and a mistrial will be declared. The prosecutor may then reschedule the case for another trial.

People who have been charged with crimes might benefit by seeking the help of experienced criminal defense attorneys who can review the facts of their clients' cases in order to identify the defenses that might be available to them. For example, if constitutional violations occurred when the defendant was taken into custody, an attorney could move for the case to be dismissed.

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