Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Confrontation Clause Definition:

The constitutional guarantee in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution which requires that an accused person have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.

Related Terms: Hearsay, Sixth Amendment

As Justice Scalia of the United States Supreme Court wrote in Crawford:

"The right to confront one's accusers is a concept that dates back to Roman times.... English law developed a right of confrontation.... For example, treason statutes required witnesses to confront the accused face to face at his arraignment.

"The Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.

"We have held that this bedrock procedural guarantee applies to both federal and state prosecutions...

"[A]n unavailable witness's out-of-court statement may be admitted so long as it has adequate indicia of reliability; i. e., falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception or bears particularized guarantees of trustworthiness."

The Confrontation Clause is but a segment of the Sixth Amendment but it has spawned a significant body of law designed to maintain fairness as an person accused of a crime mounts his or her defence within fair judicial process.

For example, this from Justice Cole in US v Warman:

"The Confrontation Clause bars the admission of testimonial statements of a witness who did not appear at trial unless he was unavailable to testify, and the defendant had had a prior opportunity for cross-examination. To trigger a violation of the Confrontation Clause, an admitted statement must be testimonial in nature and must be hearsay that is, a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted."

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