You have probably heard the term “plead the fifth” before, even if it was only in a cop show on TV. But what does this phrase really mean? Can it actually help you in a legal situation? This quick guide will provide you with some more information on what this phrase means and what power it holds legally. Keep reading to learn more.
Where Does This Phrase Come From?
The term “plead the fifth” refers to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment gives us several laws concerning the due process of law and how a person can be properly charged with a crime. The Constitution outlines five distinct constitutional rights that pertain to arrest and imprisonment. A lawyer can help an individual better understand these rights to ensure they are not violated.
What Does The Phrase Mean?
The phrase means that you are choosing not to answer questions. According to the Constitution, an individual has a right to decline to answer any questions that might lead to incriminating themselves. This is called the right against self-incrimination and basically protects you from accidentally confessing.
Is This the Same as the Right To Remain Silent?
Many people think that Miranda Rights are the same as pleading the fifth. You should understand that the right against self-incrimination actually only applies to testimony being given during a trial. Miranda Rights include the phrase, “You have the right to remain silent.” This references the right to remain silent during police questioning directly following an arrest.
Is My Fifth Amendment Right Automatic?
No. You must verbally say that you are claiming your Fifth Amendment rights during a trial.
Who Uses The Option to Plead The Fifth?
Usually, only two groups of people will plead the fifth.
- Defendants being charged with a crime who are refusing to testify in court
- Witnesses who are subpoenaed to testify, but their answers would incriminate themselves
Should I Plead the Fifth?
There are pros and cons to pleading the fifth in a trial. The Fifth Amendment can be an important way for an individual to protect themselves in some cases, but it is not always the best choice. You should only plead the fifth if your lawyer has expressly advised you to do so. Pleading the fifth means that you are both claiming and sacrificing certain rights.
You are claiming the right to not testify so as not to incriminate yourself, but you are also sacrificing the right to testify to prove your innocence. This can be a very tricky position to be in. This is why you should only plead the fifth if your lawyer has specifically advised you to do so.
Categorised in: Criminal Defense