Why Your Criminal Trial May Not Be Public

The sixth amendment to the US Constitution grants you the right to a public trial if you are accused of a criminal offense. Just like other rights, however, there are circumstances that may make you lose your right to public trial. In that case, the trial may be held behind closed doors where attendance is restricted to the necessary participants. Here are four situations where trials may be held in closed courtrooms.

There Are Security Concerns

The court may decide on a closed courtroom if it is convinced that a public trial would endanger some of the participants' lives. This is often the case with gang trials because other members of the outfit may go after the prosecutors or witnesses. If the court suspects something like that, then your trial may be private to protect the identities of the trial participants.

The Case Involves Sensitive Information

In this context, sensitive information is anything that poses a public threat if exposed to everybody. For example, it may be that the trial may touch on the details of an ongoing terrorism investigation, and leaking the information to the public may help the suspected terrorists cover their tracks. In such a case, a closed courtroom helps the investigators to continue with their work and protect the public.

Publicity May Humiliate the Victim

One of the government's most important roles is to protect the public, and it won't be doing this if it allows the victims of criminal actions to be humiliated in court. Most people are humiliated if their sexual details are shared in public, and they may even balk at participating in a trial under such conditions. It is for this reason that trials for sexual crimes are often held behind closed doors. This is usually automatic if the victims or witnesses are minor. Closed trials reduce some of the potential consequences, such as bullying from peers or humiliation, which may follow such cases.

When You Ask For It

The right to a public trial is a personal right. Therefore, you can request for a closed courtroom trial if you believe that it would give you justice. However, the judge will not accept your request without weighing it against the interests of the public and justice. For example, if you think that a public trial may lead to a biased trial, then the judge has to confirm it. In fact, he or she has to take a step further and confirm that there are no other measures that the court may take to avoid bias other than holding trial behind closed doors. For more information, talk to a criminal defense attorney.