Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens Legal Representation in Minnesota and Wisconsin
Contact Us For A Free Consultation

What Does it Mean to "Plead the Fifth?"

This blog post is the second in a three-part series exploring the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. To see the other posts in this series, click here 

In TV shows and in movies, characters are often heard to say, "I plead the Fifth" or "I exercise my right to not incriminate myself" or "under the advice of counsel, I assert my Fifth Amendment privilege." This statement is also commonly heard in real life. Recently, a Hillary Clinton IT staffer "Pleaded the Fifth" 125 consecutive times in response to questioning. And, of course, Detective Mark Furman, formerly of the Los Angeles Police Department, famously exercised his Fifth Amendment rights during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

So, what does the Fifth Amendment privilege actually entail? The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. The essence of this basic constitutional principle is the requirement that the State, which proposes to convict and punish an individual, must produce the evidence  against the individual by the independent labor of its officers, not by the simple, cruel expedient of forcing it from his or her own lips.

The Fifth Amendment privilege allows an individual to refuse to answer official questions put to him or her in any proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answer might incriminate him or her in future criminal proceedings. The privilege only applies to people who have reason to believe their answers to questions will harm them. For example, if answers could expose a person to criminal charge or penalties, the privilege applies. However, if there is no evidence of danger, the privilege does not apply. Moreover, if the consequence of testifying against oneself is removed, for example by a grant of immunity, the privilege no longer applies. In this latter situation, the person would then have to testify, even though doing so may be unpleasant.

As with most areas of the law, there are many nuances to the Fifth Amendment that can only be assessed by a trained legal professional. If you are in a situation where you may be forced to incriminate yourself, it is important to contact a lawyer right away. Grant Borgen of Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens, P.C. handles issues involving the Fifth Amendment and is always available for a free consultation.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Email us for a response

Stray Voltage Litigation

Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens has represented many farmers suffering from stray voltage. We understand the law and the science and know how to take on large utilities in the courts.

Location Map

Contact Our Firm Today For A Free Consultation

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

  • Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers - Rising Stars
  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • Minnesota Lawyer Attorneys of the Year
  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • MSBA | Minnesota State Bar Association

Rochester Office
300 3rd Avenue SE, Suite 305
Rochester, MN 55904

Phone: 507-218-2392
Phone: 507-218-2392
Fax: 507-282-7736
Rochester Law Office Map

Bloomington Office
2626 East 82nd Street
Suite 263
Bloomington, MN 55425

Phone: 507-218-2392
Fax: 507-282-7736
Map & Directions