The Fifth Amendment provides alleged lawbreakers the privilege of remaining silent when facing a conviction. This means even though a person is in trouble with the law, he or she can’t be forced to answer questions that may allow them to say something that could lead to a conviction. It doesn’t matter if the questions are being asked by a police officer or inside a courtroom, a defendant can remain silent, claiming his or her Fifth Amendment right as the reason for not answering the inquisitions being fired at him or her.
The Privilege of Silence
According to the Criminal Justice System, the Fifth Amendment provides the right to remain silent, which is a privilege to suspected criminals. The Fifth Amendment protects against a suspect’s contempt, perjury and self-incrimination. When an alleged offender is being questioned, he or she can choose to either provide the evidence the questioner is seeking, which may lead to a conviction; lie about what took place, thus commit perjury; or refuse to answer the questions, claiming the Fifth Amendment to protect against self-incrimination. Courts believe that forcing a suspect to answer questions more times than not would lead to unreliable information being presented. Being grilled with questions could even cause an innocent individual to cave and admit guilt, when he or she is not at fault whatsoever. The Fifth Amendment privilege also protects against coercion, which law enforcement officers could use to get someone to admit guilty. This tactic often is seen as torture, especially by criminal defense attorneys. It also is important to note that the Fifth Amendment was established to allow a suspect to remain silent so the government is the one with the burden to prove a defendant’s guilt by gathering and relying upon solid evidence to lead to justice.
Invoking the Privilege of the Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights and ultimately protects a person against being compelled to be a witness against himself or herself in a criminal case. “Pleading the Fifth” is a legal term which means a person is invoking the privilege that allows a witness to decline to answer questions that might incriminate him or her, without counting it against him or her. To claim the privilege when being interviewed by law enforcement, the interviewee must have vocally invoked his or her constitutional right when declining to answer questions. A person can “plead the Fifth” to ward against self-incrimination in criminal and civil proceedings. They can rely on the Fifth Amendment in federal or state courts and in trials, depositions and other proceedings. It is important to note that if a person invokes the Fifth before trial, he or she will be barred from offering testimony on the matter later. It is important to discuss the issue with an attorney before “pleading the Fifth,” however, to be sure it is an advisable action to take regarding your case.