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Pleading the Fifth

You may have heard of someone “pleading,” “taking” or “demanding the fifth” in a court of law. This expression has also worked its way into everyday speech as a sly response to potentially troublesome questions. But what exactly does pleading the fifth mean, and how does it apply to you?

The Fifth Amendment

The idea of pleading the fifth correlates to the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, one of the most important sections of our nation’s Bill of Rights. This article lists several statutes intended to protect citizens from their government, including:

  • Right to a trial by jury
  • Protection against double jeopardy, or being put on trial twice for the same offense
  • Protection from self-incrimination for witnesses under oath
  • Protection against seizure of private property by the government without compensation

Specifically, pleading the fifth deals with the third of these, or protection against self-incrimination while on the stand. This right essentially means that someone cannot be forced to answer a question that could result in his or her being considered guilty of a crime.

Outside of the courthouse, pleading the fifth is commonly known as the “right to remain silent” when under arrest, the first and most important part of the Miranda rights established in 1966.

Pleading the fifth is not a cut-and-dry issue, however. Many witnesses attempt to use this defense in situations where it does not necessarily apply, and may be held in contempt of court by refusing to answer questions directly relevant to the outcome of a case.

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For more information on your legal rights both inside and outside a court of law, contact the experienced legal team of San Jose criminal defense lawyers at the law offices of Daniel Jensen, P.C. today by calling [phone-number].

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