If you have seen virtually any crime show or legal procedural, you have likely seen someone plead the “fifth” to avoid answering questions. You may be wondering: How does pleading Fifth work in real life? The short answer is that any person can exercise their constitutionally protected right against self-incrimination by declining questions while in custody or in court. In this blog post, our Mankato criminal defense lawyer provides a comprehensive guide to the most important things to know about pleading the fifth.
Pleading the FIfth is a Constitutional Right
The shorthand term “fifth” comes from the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is one of the most important rights that people have to protect themselves from potential criminal liability. The Fifth Amendment clearly states that no person in the United States shall “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Put another way, the Fifth Amendment protects people against forced self incrimination. You do not have to answer potentially incriminating questions while in police custody or in the courtroom. You have the right to invoke the fifth to avoid doing so.
Your Refusal to Answer Cannot Be Used as Evidence of Guilt
It is important to understand the legal implications of pleading the fifth. As it is a basic constitutional right, your decision to invoke your right against self-incrimination cannot be used against you in court.
In other words, the fact that you declined to answer questions from the police, declined to answer a specific question on the witness stand, and/or declined to testify at all cannot and will not be used as evidence of your guilt.
Many people are worried that pleading the fifth will make them “look guilty.” However, the legal reality is that there are strict protections in place that prohibit prosecutors from arguing or implying that silence is evidence of guilt.
You Should Always Deal With Police and Prosecutors through a Defense Lawyer
Imagine the following scenario: You are arrested and charged with a crime that you did not commit. It is a case of mistaken identity. In this scenario, it is entirely understandable that people have an urge to talk to police so that they can try to fix the misunderstanding and clear their name.
However, the simple reality is that it is always better to work with law enforcement officers and prosecutors through an experienced defense lawyer—even if you know that you are innocent. Police and prosecutors are trying to find evidence that they can use against you. It is easy for your words to get twisted or misinterpreted. An attorney will protect your rights.
Speak to Our Mankato Criminal Defense Attorney for Immediate Help
At Kohlmeyer Hagen, Law Office Chtd., we provide justice-focused, reliable criminal defense representation to clients throughout Southern Minnesota. If you have any specific questions about taking the Fifth, we are here as a resource. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. We provide criminal defense services from our law offices in Mankato and Rochester.