If you have ever watched television shows or movies where the characters are in court, you may have heard them say, “I plead the Fifth.” While you may understand this means they aren’t going to answer and that it is legal to do, do you really know what this means or what your rights are?
When you “plead the Fifth,” you are utilizing your right to not answer questions posed by the police or prosecuting attorneys while in court or custody. If you are ever arrested, fully understanding your Fifth Amendment rights is important.
The Fifth Amendment gives all Americans the right to protect themselves from self-incrimination. If answering questions would incriminate them, taking the Fifth is their legal right.
Along with self-incrimination, the Fifth Amendment offers several other safeguards and rights, as well, including:
- Double jeopardy protection
- Writs of habeas corpus
- The right to remain silent
Understanding the scope of your Fifth Amendment rights
Pleading the Fifth at trial means you don’t have to testify. No one can force you to do this, not the judge, prosecuting attorney or your attorney.
However, if you choose to answer questions, you must answer them all. You can’t pick and choose what you answer. Also, once you take the stand, it is implied that your Fifth Amendment right has been waived for the duration of the trial.
Protecting your rights when facing criminal charges
If you are arrested, consider if you should utilize your Fifth Amendment rights. Getting legal help to assess the situation can help you make the correct decision.