Most people have heard mention of “pleading the Fifth.” Yet, they might not understand the full scope of its coverage.
Here are the five rights your Fifth Amendment gives you:
1. Protection against self-incrimination
This is the element you should consider if stopped or arrested by the police. It’s the reason the police must give you the Miranda warning, telling you that anything you say could be used against you.
Sometimes admitting you were at a specific place, or know a certain person or detail, could make it more likely that you are convicted. Even if you did nothing wrong, the mere fact you say yes could work against you. This is why you can opt not to answer.
2. Protection against double jeopardy
Prosecutors can only prosecute you for a particular offense once.
3. The right to a trial by jury
Most prosecutors do not want to go to trial, so they will do all they can to convince you a plea deal is your only alternative. It’s not.
4. The right to a fair trial
You have the right to challenge certain elements of a trial if you consider they make it unfair. For example, you can ask to replace jury members you consider impartial.
5. Protection against the government taking your property without fair compensation
This has nothing to do with criminal law. Instead, it underpins eminent domain cases where the government must pay you a fair price if it wants to take your land to use for something in the public interest – such as a new road or hospital.
Criminal law is complex, and you won’t have time to do much research if you’re facing charges. An experienced defense can help safeguard your future.