People will commonly joke, “I plead the Fifth” when asked about something they would rather not discuss. The Fifth Amendment may have evolved into a punch line over time but its original purpose of protecting criminal rights remains serious and important.
The Fifth Amendment to the United State Constitution protects Americans from making statements that may be self-incriminating. Under the Fifth Amendment, a person may refuse to answer questions if the answer would help establish that they committed a crime or partook in any criminal activity.
The Fifth Amendment allows criminal defendants not to testify at trial. In addition, the judge or jury may not consider that refusal when deciding whether the defendant is innocent or guilty.
These rights are also extended to witnesses in a criminal trial, whether or not they are currently facing charges. They may be subpoenaed and compelled to take the stand but they may exercise their Fifth Amendment rights by refusing to answer certain questions.
However, the right against self-incrimination has limits. A defendant cannot use the Fifth Amendment to refuse submitting to fingerprinting or a blood test. Suspects may be compelled to provide a DNA sample whether it is “self-incriminating” or not.
The Fifth Amendment is also the basis for a person’s Miranda rights while they are in policy custody. When a person is arrested, law enforcement officials are required to advise them that they have a right to remain silent and a right to an attorney.
If you or someone you love have been accused of a crime or are involved in a criminal investigation, it is essential to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help you ensure that your constitutional rights are protected and work with you to build a defense and work for the best possible outcome in your case.
Source: FindLaw, “Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination“
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