What Does it Mean to Plead the Fifth?

To learn more about your rights against self-incrimination and pleading the fifth, reach out to our skilled Bergen County criminal defense attorney today. Here are some questions you may have:

What does pleading the fifth mean?

In addition to the right against self-incrimination, the requirements of the Fifth Amendment supply numerous important protections for Americans, including the right to remain silent while in police custody, writs of habeas corpus, and double jeopardy protection.

Under the United States Constitution, this right, where: “[No person]…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” However, just like with most other constitutional rights, it is subject to variation by the courts and often illuminates intense discussion.

Where did pleading the fifth originate from?

The right against self-incrimination began in 17th-century England with the Puritans’ refusal to cooperate with interrogators. Some were forced or tortured into revealing their religious affiliation and were considered guilty if they remained silent. English law granted its citizens the right against self-incrimination in the mid-1600s when a revolution founded greater parliamentary power.

After fleeing religious persecution, the Puritans carried this idea to America, where it would ultimately become codified in the Bill of Rights. Now, courts have established the right against self-incrimination to include a testimonial or communicative proof at police interrogations and legal proceedings.

Should I testify in a legal proceeding?

Recognize that the Fifth Amendment provides a criminal defendant the right not to testify. This indicates that the prosecutor, the judge, and even the defendant’s own lawyer cannot force the defendant to take the witness stand against their will. However, a defendant who does decide to testify is unable to choose to answer some questions but not others. After the defendant takes the witness stand, this distinct Fifth Amendment right is deemed waived throughout the trial.

If a criminal defendant pleads the Fifth, jurors are not permitted to take the refusal to testify into consideration when determining whether a defendant is guilty.

Can the Fifth Amendment apply to fingerprints and blood tests?

You will want to keep in mind that when it comes to the collection of DNA or fingerprints for a criminal case, the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination does not apply. This is because the Supreme Court has decided that this extends only to communicative evidence, and DNA and fingerprint evidence are considered non-testimonial.

It is in your best interest to reach out to our legal team today if you have additional questions or concerns regarding your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or need representation.

Can any witness plead the fifth?

It is not just the defendant who benefits from the Fifth Amendment right not to testify in a criminal trial. Witnesses who are called to the witness stand can decline to respond to certain questions if answering would involve them in any kind of criminal activity (not limited to the case being tried). Witnesses (in addition to defendants) in organized crime trials often plead the Fifth.