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Gutting the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a jury trial for “petty offenses”

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Although the Sixth Amendment unmistakably assures that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury,” the United States Supreme Court has long maintained that somehow the Sixth Amendment does not mean what it says, in that the Constitution generally does not guarantee the right to a jury trial for a “petty offense,” which is generally defined as any offense punishable by no more than six months, even when the defendant faces the prospect of multiple consecutive sentences for multiple criminal charges each of which carries no more than a maximum of six months of incarceration Lewis v. U.S. , 518 U.S. 322, 326 (1996).

Moreover, for “petty offenses,” the governing federal rules do not even entitle a defendant to a trial before a district judge (appointed for life), as opposed to a magistrate judge (not appointed for life). Fed. R. Crim. Proc. 58(b).