More than likely, you have heard someone casually say, “I plead the fifth.” Perhaps you have jokingly thrown out the phrase yourself when someone asked you an embarrassing question that you did not want to answer.
While many are familiar with the idiom, some do not know the root of the phrase or what it actually means. “I plead the Fifth” refers to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution—and ultimately, understanding this Constitution is important because what you do not know can hurt you.
What is the Fifth Amendment?
Known as the Fifth Amendment or Amendment V, this section of the Bill of Rights became part of the United States Constitution on December 5, 1791, after being voted for in favor by three-fourths of the states. The Fifth Amendment serves to protect individuals from being held for committing a crime, unless they have been indicted, or formally accused by the police. In addition, the Fifth Amendment includes the guarantee of due process, which means that both the state and the country must respect an individual’s legal rights.
Ultimately, the Fifth Amendment was established to protect individuals against unfair treatment within different legal processes.
What does Pleading the Fifth mean?
When taken literally “plead the Fifth”? When someone invokes the Fifth Amendment, they are refusing to testify and furthermore, cannot be forced to testify against themselves during a criminal trial. Generally, an individual does this in order to protect him or herself from self-incrimination. The Fifth Amendment is ultimately what gives a criminal defendant the right to refuse to testify in a legal proceeding. This means that no one—the judge, prosecutor, or the defendant’s own lawyer—can force them to testify. Once the defendant takes the witness stand, however, they essentially waive their Fifth Amendment rights for the duration of the trial and cannot refuse to answer any questions they may be asked in front of a court of law. Ultimately, while a defendant cannot be punished for “pleading the Fifth” during a criminal trial, they can face certain consequences during a civil trial.
Understanding your Fifth Amendment rights as well the rest of the Constitution is important as it can help you better protect your rights and yourself. With any trial or legal matter, the situation can be not only stressful, but also confusing.
It is important to have the appropriate legal guidance during these times. The experienced team at the Khonsari Law Group has the skills you need to understand and defend your rights. For a free consultation, visit KLG today.