The confrontation clause is an aspect of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution which indicates the right of anyone accused of a crime to confront any and all of his or her accusers. This has often been seen as specifically allowing someone to see the people who testify against him or her and ensure the cross-examination of anyone testifying in this type of case. In some cases in which hearsay evidence is introduced, the confrontation clause is still supported and that evidence cannot typically be introduced without the person who stated it testifying in court.
As part of the Bill of Rights — the first ten amendments to the US Constitution — the confrontation clause is an important aspect of US law. Stemming from legal traditions with roots in English common law as well as practices common during the Roman Empire, this clause exists to ensure that “secret” or “unnamed” witnesses cannot testify against a person. In general, the confrontation clause exists to be sure a person who accuses someone else of a crime will usually have to, in some way, confront the accused directly.
The confrontation clause is specifically established by wording within the Sixth Amendment, which states that anyone accused of a crime will “...be confronted with the witnesses against him [or her].” While this only indicates that the accused will be allowed to confront any and all accusers, it has been expanded to include evidence against the accused and confrontation by legal representation for the accused. Not only can someone confront anyone who stands as witness against him or her for a crime, but he or she may also have legal counsel confront the person and examine evidence or testimony against the accused.
This element of the confrontation clause has even been specified to pertain to hearsay evidence as well. In order for such evidence to be admissible, even when seen as pertinent and reliable by the judge presiding over a case, it must be introduced in a way that allows the accused to confront the person giving this testimony. Therefore, if testimonial evidence that is hearsay is introduced against someone accused of a crime, it must be introduced in court or another venue in which cross-examination is possible. This means that if someone will be unavailable to appear in court to give testimony, then it must still be given in accordance with the confrontation clause and the accused and legal representative must be present to challenge the testimony that is given.