There are some fundamental legal concepts in the field of criminal law that virtually all American is aware of. One of these is the right of every citizen to “plead the fifth”. This topic is mentioned time repeatedly in Congressional statements, reports from the media on ongoing investigations, as well as on television and in films that range from police procedurals to mafia tales. What does the fifth as meaning? What is the source of this privilege from? What, if anything, do we conclude from a plea bargain in the fifth?
What does Pleading the Fifth mean?
Fifths are the colloquial word, and not one that is legal. When someone takes five, they declare something along the lines of “I will not answer the question in the fear that it could incriminate me.” Although this may sound like an admission of guilt it’s not or at the very least, legally.
This may seem like an issue of technicality, however it is the fact that pleading the fifth plea isn’t an admittance of guilt is important greatly in any criminal trial. It is the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that during the course of a trial in a criminal case jurors can’t get any details about the defendant’s inability to answer any questions or to stand to the witness stand for defense.
The concept is that defendants who are innocent or guilty shouldn’t be punished because they exercised a right protected by the United States Constitution. Jurors as well as the general public are likely to draw an negative conclusion against any person who has pleaded the fifth that’s why the judges do not permit this to be utilized to support a case in the course of a trial for criminals.
What is the place Taking the Fifth Origins
It is likely that the phrase “taking the fifth” is a reference to the rights of an individual in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is the Fifth Amendment packs in a many rights. These include:
- Being unable to federally prosecute capital crimes or other serious felonies prior to being accused by the grand jury
- Two times being charged for the same offense (double jeopardy)
- Right to due procedure and fair compensation in the event that the government seizes your property (eminent right of eminent).
The Fifth Amendment is also where we receive Miranda rights.
The Fifth Amendment provides in part that “no individual … will be forced in any criminal proceeding to testify against his own.” The concept behind this clause is to ensure that the state can’t make you testify against yourself. The Founding Fathers were concerned about a powerful and powerful government which might resort to torture or other methods of coercion to get confessions at court. The inclusion of the right against self-incrimination into the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers made sure that the government will have less reason to employ powerful tactics to prosecute criminals and to stay clear of the kangaroo court system to obtain convictions.
This concept has evolved with time, allowing you to deny answering inquiries that might implicate one in an offense that is not the subject of the scope of an ongoing criminal investigation or interrogation by police. It is possible to plead guilty at any point, even when you’re legally bound to do so by way of an order from a court or you’re summoned by Congress to give testimony on any issue that is of national significance.
The Reasons Why People of Good Will Might Choose to Plead the Fifth
The advantage of having a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is clear if you suspect that you’ve committed an offense. What does this privilege against self-incrimination mean to innocent citizens? In the past, jurors and public officials will quickly come to conclusions if you don’t want to answer any questions. Police officers or federal authority could find the same thing happening, which could lead them to launch an investigation into the person. Doesn’t it always be beneficial to fully answer any questions even if you don’t have anything to conceal?
It’s sometimes not the most effective strategy to completely cooperate with law enforcement agencies even if you’re innocent. There are many instances of individuals who weren’t at first the focus of any criminal investigation but being in the crosshairs of justice, and could have been prevented through making the fifth.
For example, let’s suppose you have shares of a pharmaceutical firm. There’s a chance that Food and Drug Administration is near to reject approval to a novel medicine. It will affect the price of the company’s stock. Even though you’re not aware of the imminent FDA action Your friend is the CEO of the business and is well-aware. He contacts you and advises you to immediately sell your stock, however he does not provide a reason. The stock is sold, but only an hour before the market is hit.
In the following months, you receive calls and emails by The Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI inquiring whether you were lucky for selling shares. Bewildered, you try to justify your decision using lies and deceit informing that the FBI that you had arranged the deal by negotiating with your broker. You also claim that the sale was not involved in the FDA rejection. However, the federal authorities ultimately discover that you are lying, and the lies you’ve made come to a halt. They accuse and convict you in the case of obstruction of justice as well as deceiving federal authoritiesand not for insider trading.
If you’d pled the fifth option, the situation could have not a problem. If you’re hearing this in a similar way to you, that’s because it has a lot in common with the situation that occurred in the case of Martha Stewart.
The Court of Public Opinion
In addition, the general public is inclined to interpret the fifth to be an admitting guilt. Therefore, when it comes to hearings, including before Congress Isn’t it more beneficial to be honest, even though there may be something you’d rather not have being made publicly available? But what do you think about being honest (mostly) and not divulging or hiding information you’re not willing to let out?
There isn’t any reason to lying during Congressional testimonies or when at the witness stand, is perjuryand a crime in both federal and state laws. In some cases, admitting to something even if it’s not the case that you’ve done anything wrong may not be the best choice to protect your self.
Here’s an example: In 2005, professional baseball player Mark McGwire repeatedly pled the fifth before Congress when asked about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. The fans of all sports immediately believed (and rightly) that he was using steroids (McGwire later acknowledged it). The live testimonies of his were viewed as an embarrassing public relations failure.
In other words, if he taken steroids, and was willing to confess later then why didn’t he just say it in a straight and honest manner? Since he’s in a an extremely difficult situation. If he’d been truthful then he may have had to answer further questions from the national media about the type of steroids he took as well as where he purchased them as well as been charged with criminal offenses (although it’s not certain). If he had denied using steroids, like he did previously and was found guilty of perjury. Thus, taking the fifth option was the safest choice. Even with the criticisms, McGwire was never convicted of any offense and was active with baseball.
It is also important to keep in mind that the rights available in criminal proceedings for pledging the fifth will not apply to the context of a civil trial. A jury may take an adverse conclusion when you are pled guilty to the fifth during an civil trial. If, for instance, you want to sue a motorist after having been injured in a accident, but you choose not to admit that you’ve consumed alcohol prior to the crash, the jury may presume that you did not respond because you’d indeed, been drinking prior to taking the driving.
Then, why should you take the Fifth Even if you’re innocent?
The Fifth Amendment protects both the innocent as well as the guilty. A person who is innocent may be able to plead the fifth even in the event that they’re innocent of the crime that is being investigation, but a response may result in lesser, insignificant criminal charge. Someone who is innocent can be able to plead guilty to the fifth charge even if they’re innocent but the circumstance appears to be a negative one for them, and the plea will only lead to further suspicion. This is just a handful of instances.
A difficult decision
It is true that posting a blog post on pleading the fifth plea isn’t legal guidance. If anyone is required to plead the fifth in the course of a criminal investigation, or related legal situation is a thorny issue. Making the decision is something you should discuss with your attorney for criminal defense (any communications with your attorney is protected by attorney-client confidentiality).
We can assume that anyone who is pleading the fifth has admitted guilt. We can freely form opinions on everything, insofar as we’re aware that taking the fifth isn’t only admitting guilt in another name.
It’s not necessary to solve this on your own – Hire a Lawyer
An appointment with a lawyer will assist you in understanding your rights and the best way to ensure your rights. Browse our lawyer directory for a lawyer in close proximity to your home who will be able to assist.