The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall … be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation….” This provision means the accused has the right to know the exactly crime they supposedly committed.
W. Cleon Skousen explained that a “person is considered to be informed of the charge against him by having a copy of the grand jury’s indictment presented to him. He is then given a reasonable time to prepare his defense. The same thing when a federal prisoner has been arrested and is brought before a judicial officer for his `preliminary hearing.’ At that time the charge is read against him and he is invited to plead `guilty’ or `not guilty.’” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 708.)
Paul Rosenzweig of The Heritage Foundation further explained that this right of the accused “traces its origin at least as far back as twelfth-century England. Anglo-Saxon law required a precise and properly substantiated accusation, initiated either by individual complaint (called an appeal) or by an accusing jury (the predecessor of our grand jury), and specifying particular charges….”
Rosenzweig quoted Justice Hugo L. Black as writing, “No principle of procedural due process is more clearly established than that notice of the specific charge, and a chance to be heard in a trial of the issues raised by that charge, if desired, are among the constitutional rights of every accused in a criminal proceeding in all courts, state or federal. Cole v. Arkansas (1948).” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 352.)