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What’s the Confrontation Clause?


The Confrontation Clause is a part of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the defendant’s right to face their accuser at trial. That means if a witness is providing testimony regarding the facts of the case, the defendant has the opportunity to challenge them and dispute their claims.

Purpose of the Confrontation Clause

The purpose of the Confrontation Clause is to ensure the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial. By allowing the defendant to come face-to-face with and question the witness, the finder of facts (the judge or jury) can evaluate the credibility of the witness.

According to the Supreme Court, the reason for the clause is:

  • To have the witness swear under oath and prevent them from making false statements
  • To ensure that the defendant has a chance to cross-examine the witness
  • To allow the factfinder to observe the witness’s behavior and assess their credibility

Inadmissibility of Out-of-Court Statements

In general, the prosecutor cannot submit the statements of any non-testifying witnesses as evidence. Doing so could be a violation of the Confrontation Clause. However, if a witness is unavailable to appear in court, but they had previously testified under oath, and the defendant cross-examined them, their out-of-court statements may be allowed.

Limiting the Right to Cross-Examine

Although the defendant has the right to question a witness who testifies against them, the trial court can place limitations on cross-examination. If the court feels that the defendant’s questions unfairly harass or humiliate the witness, it can restrict the examination, but it cannot do so in a way that would essentially deny the defendant their constitutional rights.

The court may also limit the defendant’s cross-examination of a minor who is an alleged victim of an abuse crime. In some cases, the minor’s testimony may be allowed through a one-way recording to prevent adverse impacts of questioning.

Contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella for a Free Consultation

If you were accused of an offense, our attorney will fight hard to ensure your rights are protected. We have over 20 years of experience and have an extensive understanding of the criminal justice system. When you retain the services of our lawyer, we will work one-on-one with you to develop a unique legal strategy and challenge the statements made against you.

To speak with our lawyer, call us at (414) 882-8382 or contact us online.

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