ArtIII.S2.C3.1 Jury Trials

Article III, Section 2, Clause 3:

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

Article III, Section 2, Clause 3 is one of two constitutional provisions—the other being the Sixth Amendment—that provide a right to jury trial in federal criminal cases.1 In addition to providing such a right generally in all criminal cases except impeachment cases,2 this Clause also specifies the venue in which a trial must take place: in the state where the crime was committed, or at a place directed by Congress if the crime was not committed within any states.3 The Sixth Amendment later further imposed other requirements related to the right, including that the trial be speedy and public, and that the trial take place before a jury summoned from the state and district in which the crime was committed.4

On June 15, 2023, the Supreme Court decided Smith v. United States5 , a case involving whether the Double Jeopardy Clause prevents retrial of a defendant tried and convicted in an improper venue, or by a jury from the wrong district, in violation of the Constitution’s Venue and Vicinage Clauses, respectively.6 The Court distinguished between judicial decisions of improper venue and verdicts of acquittal, noting that the Court in earlier decisions recognized no protection from retrial when a trial terminates “on a basis unrelated to factual guilt or innocence of the offence of which [the defendant] is accused.” 7 Accordingly, the Court found that the Double Jeopardy clause did not bar retrial in a proper venue.

The Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment’s right to jury, including the requirement that a jury verdict be unanimous, applies to states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968); see also Ramos v. Louisiana, No. 18-5924, slip op. at 7 (U.S. 2020) (holding that the Sixth Amendment’s requirement of a unanimous verdict applies to states through the Fourteenth Amendment). back
The Supreme Court, however, has long held that the guarantees of jury trial under Article III, Section 2, Clause 3 and the Sixth Amendment do not apply to petty offenses because at the time of the Constitution’s adoption, such offenses were tried summarily without a jury under common law. See Cheff v. Schnackenberg, 384 U.S. 373, 378–79 (1966). back
U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl.3. back
U.S. Const. amend. VI; see generally Amdt6.1 Overview of Sixth Amendment, Rights in Criminal Prosecutions. back
Smith v. United States, No. 21–1576 (U.S. June 15, 2023). back
See generally U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 3; U.S. Const. amend. V; U.S. Const. amend. VI. back
Smith, slip op. at 15 (citing United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82, 99 (1978) (alteration in original)). back