The Fifth Amendment is arguably the Constitutional Amendment that people know the best. Although many high school civics teachers may have forced their students to memorize what each of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights did to alter the Constitution, many people will have forgotten those details by the time they are independent adults.
The Fifth Amendment, however, sometimes comes up in movies and television shows, as well as crime novels. Defendants sometimes plead the fifth dramatically during media court proceedings, which means that most people understand that the Fifth Amendment protects them from self-incrimination.
How does the Fifth Amendment help you when you face criminal charges?
It protects you from misconduct while in police custody
Although the Miranda Warning is not technically a constitutional right on its own, it has its basis in your Fifth Amendment rights. Police officers that place you under arrest and want to question you must advise you of your rights under the Fifth and Sixth amendments.
These include your right to remain silent so you don’t implicate yourself and your right to an attorney. If officers don’t advise you of those rights and then question you, your lawyer may be able to challenge the statements that you made to the police and prevent the prosecutor from presenting them in criminal court.
It can excuse you from discussing matters in court
Whether you are in civil court responding to a lawsuit and worry that a question might have criminal implications or you are in the middle of cross-examination by a prosecutor while defending yourself against charges, what you say on the stand could eventually lead to additional legal issues for you.
You have the right to avoid answering questions regardless of whether they come from a prosecutor or someone else’s lawyer if the answers to those questions might in some way implicate you in criminal activity. The Fifth Amendment is one of the reasons why defense attorneys can feel comfortable letting people testify in their own defense because the prosecutor cannot force them to make statements that would severely damage their case.
Learning more about your basic rights, including the protection of the Fifth Amendment, can help you better handle pending criminal charges in Minnesota.