If you have faced or are facing criminal charges, you have probably been told to learn your Fifth Amendment rights by friends, family, or your criminal defense attorney. But why should you be concerned with something you normally only hear in a television crime drama series when a person claims they “plead the Fifth”?
As far as the Amendments go, the Fifth is arguably the most important for the criminally accused. It outlines four distinct rights you have as someone being arrested and facing charges on American soil.
- You have the right to remain silent.
- You have the right to know that what you say and do can be used against you in court later.
- You have the right to an attorney to help defend you in and out of court.
- You have the right to be appointed an attorney if you cannot afford one.
When you are being arrested by a police officer, you must be told all four of these rights, or given your “Miranda warning” as it is more commonly called. If you are not, your arrest and any resulting evidence from it might be deemed inadmissible.
Knowing When to Plead the Fifth
The whole point of the Fifth Amendment and the mandatory issuance of your Miranda rights is so that you do not give any incriminating evidence against yourself unwillingly. You cannot be forced to testify against yourself in a criminal case according to the Fifth Amendment. Pleading the Fifth makes it clear to law enforcement that you won’t talk until you have your attorney present. Even if you know you have done no crime, you could misspeak and make it seem like you are guilty, so exercising your Fifth Amendment right virtually eliminates this risk.
But you do not want to use the Fifth Amendment as a crutch. Generally, it is smart to invoke it upfront just so you can get your bearings straight, but consult with your attorney before invoking it again. In some cases, refusing to cooperate can be seen as an admission of guilt, known as an “adverse inference,” as it can be supposed that had you spoken and done so honestly, you would have said something incriminating.
In the end, if you really want to use and protect your Fifth Amendment rights, you should do so with a trusted, experienced attorney. Our team Charlotte County criminal defense lawyers at Bogle Law are fronted by a former State Prosecutor and Board-Certified Criminal Trial Specialist, so you know your case is in good hands. Call us today at 866.270.8050 for a free case evaluation, during which we can further explain your Fifth Amendment rights.