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When can you plead the Fifth?

On Behalf of | Jan 21, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Pleading the Fifth is something most people may have heard on television or a movie, but what exactly is it? Under the U.S. Constitution, a person can use the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination during a police interrogation or a trial. Even though it’s a federal law, people in Texas and across the nation may take advantage of it as well. Although the Fifth Amendment contains other types of protections for Americans, the following will focus solely on the right to avoid self-incrimination.

Pros & cons of pleading the Fifth

Whether his or her attorneys advise the move or not, a criminal defendant may plead the Fifth, so he or she is not forced to testify in court. However, pleading the Fifth does not mean that you can answer some questions and not others, which, of course, limits your defense. However, if there is a jury present, they are asked to not take your plead into consideration during deliberation. Of course, that is not how the human mind works, so the jury may view an innocent person as suspicious.

Does the Fifth extend to all evidence?

A common misconceptions about pleading the Fifth is that it means a suspect could refuse to provide a DNA sample. The fact is that the law clearly states that pleading the Fifth only protects a person from self-incrimination if it’s through communication. The courts still have the right to obtain DNA samples from the accused.

May a witness plead the Fifth?

Yes, the law allows a witness to plead the Fifth in court. The reason for that is because some witnesses may not want to implicate themselves during their statements. However, unlike a defendant, they may be forced to testify if the courts subpoena them.

If you’re unsure about pleading the Fifth during your trial, obtaining the advice of an attorney with experience in criminal law is highly recommended. A lawyer may present you with the various scenarios that would occur if you do decide to plead the Fifth.