United States constitutional criminal procedure

The Warren Court (1953–1969) issued several landmark constitutional decisions concerning criminal procedure, including Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), Brady v. Maryland (1963), and Duncan v. Louisiana (1968).

The United States Constitution contains several provisions regarding the law of criminal procedure.

Petit jury and venue provisions—both traceable to enumerated complaints in the Declaration of Independence—are included in Article Three of the United States Constitution. More criminal procedure provisions are contained in the United States Bill of Rights, specifically the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments. With the exception of the Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Vicinage Clause of the Sixth Amendment, and (maybe) the Excessive Bail Clause of the Eighth Amendment, all of the criminal procedure provisions of the Bill of Rights have been incorporated to apply to the state governments.

Several of these rights regulate pre-trial procedure: access to a non-excessive bail, the right to indictment by a grand jury, the right to an information (charging document), the right to a speedy trial, and the right to be tried in a specific venue. Several of these rights are trial rights: the right to compulsory process for obtaining witnesses at trial, the right to confront witnesses at trial, the right to a public trial, the right to a trial by an impartial petit jury selected from a specific geography, and the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself. Others, such as the assistance of counsel and due process rights, have application throughout the proceeding.

If a defendant is convicted, the usual remedy for a violation of one of these provisions is reversal of the conviction or modification of the defendant's sentence. With the exception of structural errors (such as the total denial of counsel), constitutional errors are subject to harmless error analysis, although they must be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. With the exception of a Double Jeopardy or Speedy Trial violation, the government will usually be permitted to retry the defendant. Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), these provisions are the source of nearly all reviewable errors in federal habeas review of state convictions.

Relevant text

The U.S. Bill of Rights

Article Three, Section Two, Clause Three of the United States Constitution provides that:

Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.[1]

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in relevant part, that:

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 offense 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 . . . .[2]

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that:

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.[3]

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in relevant part, that:

Excessive bail shall not be required . . . .[4]

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in relevant part, that:

[N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.[5]